Obama's Second Front

Holder's CIA Gambit

By Robert A. George
|  Tuesday, Aug 25, 2009  |  Updated 11:17 PM EDT
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Attorney General Eric Holder opened up another Washington firestorm with decision to prosecute some CIA interrogators in the war on terror. Decision energizes Republicans while splitting Democrats. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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President Obama is on vacation this week, but his summer of headaches rolls along at a steady pace.  He has seemingly made one of the classic errors in military strategy -- opened up a second front, when the first wasn't even close to being under control. 

Perhaps he might have thought that Eric Holder's decision to open a criminal investigation into Bush-era CIA interrogation techniques would have the unlikely dual effect of satisfying Obama critics on the left who feel that the nation engaged in torture during the Bush years -- but also somehow not get too much attention during the fading dog days of August. 

Wrong on all counts. 

Liberals don't feel that Holder is going far enough in his investigation.  More politically-sensitive Democrats are wary of what this action does to the perception of the Obama administration as being "above" partisan and ideological politics. 

Meanwhile, like health care, this decision has energized Republicans. New York Rep. Peter King, ranking member on the House Committee on Homeland Security lashed out in brutal barnyard language:  "It’s bulls***. It’s disgraceful. You wonder which side they’re on....[It's a] declaration of war against the CIA, and against common sense. It’s a total breach of faith, and either the president is intentionally caving to the left wing of his party or he’s lost control of his administration."

The decision gave former Vice President Dick Cheney an opportunity to again castigate the administration's handling of a key decision related to national security. Cheney claimed: 

That the CIA's interrogation of terror suspects "saved lives and prevented terrorist attacks." In a statement, Cheney said those who carried out the interrogations "deserve our gratitude" and do not deserve "to be the targets of political investigations or prosecutions."

He said that Monday's Obama administration decisions serve as a reminder "if any were needed, of why so many Americans have doubts about this administration's ability to be responsible for our nation's security." 

And so, where is Obama left? He's trying to recover from the worst six weeks of his presidency.  His health-care policy is on the ropes and now he has exposed himself on the national security front.  To compound measures, a whisper campaign against his own CIA director -- appointed barely five months ago -- has already started.  

One doesn't like to make prognostications so early in a presidency, but is it too soon to start producing those "ObamaFail" buttons? 

New York writer Robert A. George blogs at Ragged Thots. Follow him on Twitter 

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