Tuesday, May 19, 2009

ON THE CONSERVATIVE TORTURE STRATEGY. I'm not sure how they expect to win with this. I can certainly see why conservatives would want to divert attention from the Bush Administration's record on detainee torture, and that the easiest route would seem to be the tergiversations of Nancy Pelosi. But while they're beating up the largely unpopular Speaker, Obama is reneging on a promise to produce photographs of Bush-era detainee abuses.

I would imagine there remain neocon moles throughout the Administration who could and would have tipped conservatives that Obama's reversal was imminent. I assume some of them were tipped. Yet they have still raced to get Pelosi, and hauled along with them even the most dedicated rightbloggers, who only make matters worse by their circumlocutions over the Speaker's modish reversal from post-9/11 war supporter to Obama-era reformer:
Secondly, we on the right are not mad that Pelosi kept quiet before. We would be just fine with her ignoring the whole debate now — and that would include not pressing the absurd idea of prosecutions of Bush officials today. She is a hypocrite on the issue not because she is lying about what she knew and when she knew it but that she is attempting to use the “torture” issue only now when she thinks it might pay her political dividends. If she was so upset over “torture” as she now claims to be, why did she remain quiet all this time until now?
Try to image reading this curley-q justification to normal Americans, whom the most conservative polls show are divided on the investigation of Bush war crimes. It would seem as if conservatives are forfeiting an opportunity offered by the President to make the torture issue a matter of bipartisan magnanimity toward the previous Administration, and demanding that the question be called, with themselves overtly defending their own party from prosecution -- which reasonable people who are not intimately involved with the partisan chair-throwing of the blogosphere (that is, to reiterate, normal Americans) might find self-serving, as opposed to the President's generous position.

I understand the impatience of Glenn Greenwald and others with Obama's take-it-easy attitude toward the torture issues that Dick Cheney is taking less easy. Certainly the mainstream media is playing up this alleged division between the left -- whatever that is -- and Obama ("Liberals 'Souring on Obama'?"). But I also see that Pelosi's disapproval ratings mirror those of the unfortunately availed keynote rightwing buffoon Newt Gingrich -- something the press monkeys see as a major downfall for Pelosi, but which strikes me as a great opportunity for, well, any President who might like to triangulate himself into a position of authority in the torture debate. Once we dispense with the sentimental idea that the President should always protect the Speaker, this seems like a great advantage for Obama.

What he does with that advantage, of course, will be telling. But I think where Obama has got himself is a great place for a Democratic President to be: the despised former Republican Vice-President and the ten-years-past-sell-by-date Republican Speaker ganging up against him, the current Democratic Speaker serving as a heat sink, and the titular head of the opposition party knotted by internecine gibberish ("How is kicking Colin Powell out or kicking Dick Cheney out or Rush Limbaugh in going to feed a child who’s hungry tonight?").

In any case, how the Right benefits from this I can't see. I doubt they can either. Much as I like to attribute great, evil machinations to them, they seem at the moment to be flailing. Maybe their next step will be a Torture Tea Party, in which speakers discourse on the founding fathers' use of torture to gain valuable information from the British.

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