President Obama made a “wise and stunning reversal” Wednesday, said the New York Daily News in an editorial, by vowing to fight the release of dozens of “old but classified” photos of “alleged” prisoner abuse by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pentagon agreed to release the photos, after a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union, but Obama is right: That would be like “putting automatic firearms in the hands of our enemies.”
No, Obama made the wrong call, said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial. It’s “terrible” that Bush's “culture of torture and lawlessness” left Obama with such an “unpalatable choice.” But the very existence of the photos is enough to “inflame” both our friends and enemies, and we should “at least get credit” for acknowledging our mistakes before the photos are inevitably leaked.
Obama’s choice to suppress the “graphic evidence of U.S. brutality” certainly inflamed his liberal allies, said David Ignatius in The Washington Post. But that may not be an accident. By making the military brass and conservatives happy, Obama is polishing his “credentials as a centrist”—in effect, having a “‘Sister Soulja’ moment” on national security.
“Moderate and independent voters like centrism,” said John Dickerson in Slate, but it’s more likely that Obama’s just being pragmatic. This “11th-hour reversal” on the photos fits with his view of his presidency, in which he’s “parallel parking” in the tight spot Bush left him. In this turn of the wheel, he found the military’s argument more persuasive.