Depending whom you ask, Pfc. Bradley Manning is either a heroic whistleblower scapegoated by the Obama administration or a traitor with blood on his hands who deserves the death penalty.
Conservatives have generally belonged in the latter category. But one wonders whether the recent Obama scandals might change conservatives' perception, making them more sympathetic to Manning's plight.
After all, conservatives today see governmental overreach in the scandals surrounding the Justice Department's snooping on journalists at the AP and Fox News. Plus, Obama has invoked the Espionage Act to punish people who aid U.S. enemies six times. Before Obama, the law had only been invoked three times.
Might that change how conservatives view the government's treatment of Manning?
To be sure, this is not a perfect analogy. For one thing, Manning is not a journalist. And he clearly broke his military oath. It's hard to see how a nation can long survive when its rank-and-file enlisted men and women get to unilaterally decide what classified information remains secret, and what doesn't.
But with Manning due to stand trial on June 3, and with a new documentary about WikiLeaks out, it is perhaps time to reexamine the secret spiller's story. (Note: It's fair to point out that some libertarian-leaning conservatives have been supportive of Manning. For example, Ron Paul was defending Manning and Julian Assange a year ago. And Paul hasn't let up.)
My question is whether recent events might have changed the context of how Manning is perceived. Should intellectually honest conservatives have voiced more outrage over the way our government reportedly kept him in "inhuman conditions"?
And might they now support a softer sentence for him? Perhaps the Obama administration's increasingly problematic heavy-handedness with its foes in the media will create new sympathy for another person the White House has been very, very tough on.