The president asserts that he reversed his decision to release the detainee abuse photos because such release would endanger American lives. As a result, many, including a number of conservative pundits, have applauded him for putting American safety ahead of ideology.
But as Andy points out, the compliments are premature at best. The photos may still be released, thereby endangering Americans. Had the president wished to be certain that American lives will not be imperiled by release of the photos, he could have closed the matter by issuing an E.O. under 5 U.S.C. Sec. 552(b)(1)(A). That would’ve been the responsible course of action. Instead, he punted to an appellate process that, to date, has not been receptive to non-disclosure arguments.
It’s reasonable, therefore, to conclude that political considerations trumped the asserted concern over American lives. Rather than being evidence that the president is “growing in office” or “shifting from a campaign mode to a governing mode,” the reversal appears to be the most cynical of political maneuvers.
Maybe the president will eventually issue an executive order barring the release of the photos or maybe the Court will bar their release. Until such time we can be grateful that the release isn’t imminent. But I’ll withhold my applause until the president brings the matter to closure.