Sam Stein reports:
Senator Lindsey Graham said on Wednesday, that the White House had assured him that the president was still committed to preventing the release of photos showing detainee abuse — and that he would prefer Congress take the lead.
Speaking at a hearing with Attorney General Eric Holder, the South Carolina Republican relayed a message from Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel that the president was not backing down on the issue.
“I just talked with the White House a moment ago, with Rahm Emanuel,” Graham said. “And he has indicated to me that the president would not let these photos see the light of day. That he would prefer the Congress to act.
To recap, the Justice Department told the president he had no choice but to submit to a decision of the Second Circuit ordering the release of detainee abuse photos. Criticism ensued. Obama reversed his decision, saying that the Pentagon told him American troops would die from the resulting backlash if the photos were released. He then did nothing other than change his position in court. Sens. Lieberman and Graham put forth an amendment to make sure the president’s decision was carried out. The House Democrats balked. The amendment came out of the defense spending bill, but the president said he’d take care of it. Now, he wants Congress to do this.
Why does the president find it so hard to do this himself? Why not sign an executive order and be done with it? It seems like an extraordinary amount of hassle and an act of political cowardice to make Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid come up with the legislative mechanism when, with the stroke of a pen, Obama could settle the issue. It is hard to believe that the president so fears his netroot base that he is hoping to insulate himself from the ACLU’s criticism by deferring to Congress. After all, I think the ACLU has figured out that the president isn’t with them on this one.