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Friday, April 24, 2009

The Stunning Hubris of President Obama

That everything surrounding the so called torture memos has become a toxic political football should surprise no one. What should surprise everyone is why the White House, upon releasing the memos, thought that anything but what is happening now would happen. According to Politico, privately administration officials thought that releasing these selected memos would allow the country "to move forward" and "end this particular ugly chapter".

Was the administration really that obtuse and full of hubris that they thought that releasing selected memos that painted their predecessors in a bad light would end the story? I can only assume that this line of thinking is the result of more than two years of fawning media coverage. I can only assume that never ending fawning media coverage made them think that they could control this story and manipulate it so maximize their own positive image and maximize the negative image of the Bush administration?

Did they really not think that no one in the Bush administration would push back? Did they really not think that selectively releasing only a few memos would open up a lot more new questions than resolve old answers?

The hubris of the administration only begins there. For months, the administration has been simultaneously following two simultaneous narratives on the story. First, the administration was determined to look forward not backward. Second, the administration was determined to hold any "lawbreakers" responsible. It seems no one noticed that the two are contradictory. Obama has made no secret that he believes laws were broken. Well, if laws were broken, then folks need to be held accountable. Of course, if we are going to hold folks accountable, we need to look backward not forward.

So, is anyone surprised that after months of saying he wasn't going to pursue charges, he switched. The narrative he had built was built on such a contradiction. At some point, he was going to move from one plank to another and thus flip flop. So, the stunning hubris seems to be that no one noticed that they were creating an untennable dichotomy.

Now, since this has exploded, the entire administration looks like deer in headlights. No one can explain what exactly they plan to do. Will the release more memos? Will they form a truth commission? Will they prosecute? While the message from the administration has been totally incoherent the last week, the story has exploded. They've lost total control.

The hubris doesn't stop there. Now, comes word that they will release new photos of prisoner abuse in response to an FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) request by the ACLU.

The Department of Defense -- on the heels of the firestorm over the release of Bush-era memos on CIA interrogation techniques -- said Thursday it plans to make public at least 44 photos depicting potentially abusive treatment of detainees at prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The decision to release the photos was announced Thursday in a letter filed in a federal court in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in 2004.

It sets a May 28 deadline for the Department of Defense to produce 21 images that the court in 2006 ordered the government to release and 23 additional related images, as well as "a substantial number of other images" in the Army's possession.

Does the administration not see that this will only explode the story even more? The administration seems to think that they can act at will with no push back. They are convinced that they can will this story so that the Bush admin looks horrible and there won't be any push back. Make no mistake, they didn't have to release these photos now. This has been gong on for years. They could have fought this off for several more years. Instead, they decided to release more photos of prisoner abuse right in the middle of an exploding story on interrogation of prisoners.

The most stunning hubris is their belief that none of this will have any negative consquences. By releasing the memos, they are asking for the CIA to become passive. By releasing these photos, they are asking for our military to be demonized. By treating this story as such, they are asking for a hyper polarized environment. Yet, it appears the administration doesn't seem to see any of this as much of a problem.


Foxwood said...

Let's go surfin' now
Everybody's learnin' how
Do some waterboardin' with me!

Anonymous said...

I think Bush and Cheney need to answer questions.
After reading this article, would drag them before tribunals to answer questions.
Screw partisanship.
Its time to do what is right

mike volpe said...

I think if you are "convinced" by a commentary by Frank Rich, your mind was already made up. That's fine but don't hold yourself out as some sort of objective observer.