Seated in Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's West Wing office with about a dozen of his political, legal and security appointees, Obama requested a mini-debate in which one official was chosen to argue for releasing the memos and another was assigned to argue against doing so. When it ended, Obama dictated on the spot a draft of his announcement that the documents would be released, while most of the officials watched, according to an official who was present. The disclosure happened the next day.Watched calmly? Watched with dismay? Surely the source characterized the mood. I'd like to know.
Obama's aides have told political allies that the last-minute conversation, which ended around 9:30 p.m., demonstrated the president's commitment to airing both sides of a debate that was particularly contentious. But it also reflected widespread angst inside the White House that a public airing and repudiation of the harsh interrogation techniques that the last administration sought to keep secret would spark a national security debate with conservatives that could undermine Obama's broader agenda....This suggests that the argument for withholding the memos was political, but wasn't the argument for releasing them also political?
Several Obama aides said the president's decision was in line with his frequent criticism during the campaign of President George W. Bush's policies on interrogations at secret prisons. On his second day in office, Obama banned the prisons and the tactics in an executive order.Legal analysis tends to look cool and analytical. Yes, you can say that's cold and sterile. Would the people be less roused by memos that were contaminated with nonlegal considerations and overflowing with passion. It's a lawyer's argument — and Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and White House counsel Gregory B. Craig were in favor of releasing the memos — to say that some legal analysis they don't like is cold and sterile. Don't ordinary people expect legal analysis to look legal?
The aides also said they hope the memos' release will focus public attention on the coldness and sterility of the legal justifications for abusive techniques, with Obama telling reporters in the Oval Office on Tuesday that the documents demonstrate that the nation lost its "moral bearings" in the Bush years.