I have a soft spot for idealists.
I suspect most people whose political views are shaped by their morality as opposed to immediate self-interest have that same soft spot.
I never doubted for one minute that the apotheosis of Barack Obama was beautifully and carefully constructed by skilled political operatives. I assumed that they recognized that Obama was "the real thing" much like the young operatives attracted to the fictional President Bartlett on The West Wing.
I expected that Obama would make deals and compromises on policies that would anger and perplex me, and surely he did, but I could comfort myself that in some grand scheme version of 3 Dimensional Chess, Obama was losing a piece to gain the board.
It's one thing to compromise on policy: tax rates and economic measures. Those compromises have larger effects on larger numbers of people, but it's hard to suss out the precise combination of government actions and personal choices to account for a lost job or a denied benefit.
When an individual sits in a jail cell, unconvicted of any crime, and is subjected to the kind of treatment that Bradley Manning endures then the chief executive of the state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces is singularly responsible.
I argued a few days ago in a thread about Manning that Obama surely did not "approve" of Manning's treatment in the usual meaning of the word "approve". I assumed that President Obama did not have the ugly niggly details of Manning's mental torture on his desk and was required to sign off on them.
I want to apologize to the respondents who called me naive and asserted that Obama was a functionary in service to the American empire and would not be influenced by something like justice and legal precedent. Today I recognized that their analysis of Obama's conscience is arguable, defensible and rational.
I will likely embrace, join and defend that assessment of "Obama as a man of conscience" if today's disgraceful response to a question regarding Bradley Manning is not followed by real changes.
When Barack Obama suggested that concerns for Manning's safety, presumably from self-injury, were a factor in his conditions "as well".... he ignored the predicate,... the first cause for these conditions. These of course would be illegal, unconstitutional, contrary to the military regulations, and enough to trigger these secondary concerns about thoughts of self-injury.
Obama, today, publically embraced a position on a legal case that undermines the presumption of innocence, the legal rights of a defendant, and the human rights of a detained human being. I am not impressed.
Nelson Mandela was legitimately "guilty" of some of the charges against him in the sense that the racist apartheid regime was then "sovereign". And yet he was, above all, a prisoner of conscience. As inadequate as it was, there was a trial. A verdict.
Bradley Manning is not yet convicted of any crime. His trial date is not set. The conditions he is being held in seem, to any reasonable assement, akin to if not defineable torture, conditions designed by totalitarian regimes to break and dissolve the mind and will of the internee.
Nelson Mandela, we presume, admires or admired Barack Obama. Barack Obama we presume admires Nelson Mandela.
Either quietly, quantitatively and qualitatively.... conditions for Bradley Manning improve.. a demonstration that Obama has been forced to examine, review and rectify this injustice, or we can conclude:
Or we can conclude that in Barack Obama's America, kafkayesque abuses of the legal system and human rights can persist in the face of a direct and public challenge.
If such an abuse of the individual's rights continues in the light of a public challenge we can presume that the more vague and broad brush kinds of victimhood in the American empire are also deliberate.
Harvard law? Harvard law review? Constitutional Law?
Bone up on the Manning case Mr. President. My opponents believe you are well versed in the case and we are witnessing your orders.
If Obama thought he did sufficiently well on his feet fielding a question on a nagging issue that he was not well briefed on... he did not.
Bradley Manning's conditions of confinement would be objectionable IF he was tried and found guilty of a crime. As a suspect being held for trial he is a living exemplar of America's shoddy companionship with human rights violating states.
At least most torture states don't lecture other torture states about the thrills of moral superiority.