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There Is Another Way to Protect the Troops, Mr. President

Roll Call reports that Sens. Joe Lieberman and Lindsay Graham are not going to knuckle under to the House Democrats’ effort to strip out their amendment barring release of the detainee abuse photos:

Both Senators said they were alarmed that a House-Senate conference committee on the supplemental war spending bill appears poised to eliminate language — inserted by the two Senators — that would block public disclosure of detainee abuse photos. The $90-billion-plus bill has been held up, in part, because House Democratic leaders have said they do not have the votes to pass it with the detainee photo provision included, because many liberal lawmakers have balked at the language.

If the provision is eliminated, Lieberman and Graham said they would vote against the supplemental and any attempts to bring debate on the measure to a close. Graham predicted that most, if not all, of the 40 Senate Republicans would do the same, and Lieberman said he would be reaching out to Democrats on the issue as well. That could be enough to filibuster the supplemental measure on the Senate floor, because 60 votes are needed to end debate on a bill.

Both men said the release of more photos showing U.S. soldiers abusing detainees at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison and at prisons in Afghanistan would only inflame tensions in the Middle East and further serve as a recruiting tool for al-Qaida.
Lieberman said that the release of an earlier batch of photos from Abu Ghraib in 2004 had a positive effect, in that it rallied the Congress — and the new president — to outlaw such practices in the future. The release of additional photos, Lieberman argued, “to me is sheer voyeurism … and will lead to the death of Americans.”
Both Senators cited warnings from generals in the field and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that the photos could incite violence against Americans in the Middle East.

Graham accused House Democratic leaders of being beholden to “a fringe element in American politics” because he said they appear to be taking the side of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has sued the government under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the other photos.

There is something remarkable about the degree to which the liberal House leadership, even with the comfort of a large majority and the announced wishes of the White House, remains beholden to the netroot fringe of its party. As Graham remarks, “The only body that is off-script in my mind is the House…  Is the ACLU now in charge of the House of Representatives?” Well, yes. And even more remarkably, for all his vaunted powers of persuasion, Obama can’t seem to get his own party in line. Well, to be honest, he never tries very hard (e.g. stimulus drafting, the 9,000 earmarked supplemental spending bill). Maybe his heart isn’t in it.

But there is a solution, of course. Obama could sign an executive order accomplishing the exact same thing as the Lieberman-Graham amendment. Why doesn’t he? Maybe he’s more than willing to allow Pelosi to gum up the works and make sure his ACLU allies get just what they want. Otherwise, he’d end this circus and sign an executive order to prevent releasing the photos that he declared would endanger American troops.



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