Deep Game — Help me Out Here

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

I’ve read about this before but never read a better explanation of this notion than I did last night in Meteor Blades’ diary, What Matters Isn’t the Photos, It’s the Torture.

And before I quote this comment, I’d like to ask that those reading this consider it as if it were true, whether it is or not.  Yeah, good luck to me, lol.

The comment is from dengre, and I’m blockquoting three comments in this thread (emphasis mine):

It is about the torture

and the rule of law. It is also about tactics to get to justice. Many do not agree with the tactics that the Obama Administration have been using. They would prefer something like a Pickets Charge on the issue as oppose to a more subtle and comprehensive legal strategy. I prefer the latter and that is what I think President Obmaba is doing.

One issue of concern is the Obama Administration filing legal briefs to continue Bush Administration arguments about various issues. If they did not do that then the Bush view would loose[sic] in Court, but it would be a loss based on withdrawal and the very dangerous legal theories of the Bush era–like the Unitary Executive–would never have their day in Court and would not face complete repudiation.  And so I think these cases need to be pushed forward as a tactic to take on the worst legal ideas of the Bush years. We need to know which of these ideas the Supreme Court would uphold so that Legislative restrictions (and/or a Constitutional Amendment) can be crafted to make sure that we never again have a Co-Presidency like Bush-Cheney ever again. Torture is just another symptom of that disease.

(this reply by joanneleon)

That would be a smart and honest strategy

if this is indeed what they are doing.  But why could they not be more honest about such a strategy?  It would give people a lot less to worry about.  For instance, Greenwald is pretty good at interpreting what is going on and I don’t think he has offered this as a plausible scenario, though I could be wrong and may have missed such an analysis.

(dengre’s response)

I think Greenwald argues tactics

and that he favors a frontal assault on First Amendment Issues and has concerns about allowing a mostly Republican appointed SCOTUS deciding the issue. I think he has a very healthy distrust of power. He is a passionate advocate for a set of tactics to deal with the issue, but I think he sees some of the symptoms like torture or individual legal fights as the most important and urgent issue. It seems to me that President Obama sees the twisted legal theories of the Bush/Cheney years as the core problems–as the disease.

As a result I think they have both embraced different tactics and that these tactics are–from time to time–at odds with each other.

This is an “Eyes on the Prize” fight. And victory (IMHO) is the complete destruction of the perverted views of power that were the foundation of the Bush/Cheney years.

My two cents for whatever it is worth.

So this is what I want to discuss.  Join me beneath the fold if you’re interested.

Setting aside all the “eleven dimensional chess” snark and “I trust Obama so STFU!” protests, something about this strategy resonates with me as probable, given Obama’s love of process.

What I take from this is that his plan is to force the other two branches of government, Congress and the judiciary, to tackle the problems left by the Cheney/Bush misAdministration, to have the DOJ defend the Bush era practices so that the courts have no choice but to reveal their views on those practices by their rulings, so that Congress then would have to deal with any adverse Supreme Court decisions by crafting legislation that the SCOTUS can’t deny, etc., etc.

Of course, the best laid plans … you know the rest.

My question is how we incorporate this view (if it is indeed true) into our own fight when it comes to prosecuting torture.  I’m all for the three branches of government stepping up to the plate and we the citizens seeing just where they are coming from.  If the result of this is that the judiciary and Congress are not acting in our best interests under those circumstances, we need to know that.

Because, of course, Obama is also telling we the people that there is a role for us to play as well.  Most of us here don’t need Obama to tell us that, lol.

I don’t care about tactics, per se.  I do care that those who have held the highest power in the land and abused that power be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

And I’m not saying other political factors aren’t playing out here as well.  The powers that be are still putting enormous pressure on the Obama Administration to play the game their way.  And as far as the torture issue, we’ve seen that Obama can’t continue for long to play that he is uninvolved, as the recent cognitive dissonance over the Telegraph story and Gibbs’ response has amply shown.

But I do think that the deep game described above is likely and I’d like to hear how that relates or clashes with our own mission to hold everyone equally accountable to the law, regardless of their high position, regardless of their power.

Any ideas would be very welcome!


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  1. … this meme is going to be spread, I’ve already seen other people make these kinds of comments.  So I think we need to understand it and respond — especially when our “tactics” and Obama’s are opposed.

    • Edger on May 30, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    or an experienced legal tactician of some kind?

  2. thinking.  Torture happened under Clinton as well, he didn’t try the next step like Bush, which was try and make it legal.  The Presidents, current and past, are tied together. Bill Clinton became GHW Bushs best buddy, even tho GHW Bush is definitely the evil Bush compared to little Georgie.  Now Clinton and little Georgie are best buddies.  I can’t possibly imagine Obama going after Bush, when these relationships are already set.

    TORONTO, May 29 (Reuters) – Former U.S. Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton traded jokes about life after the Oval Office and took turns defending each other as they shared a stage in Toronto on Friday to discuss global affairs.

    In a sold-out event billed as their first conversation on stage since they left office, Bush and Clinton disagreed politely about a couple of issues, backed each other on others and refused to criticize anything current President Barack Obama was doing

  3. again. How does that keep happening? lol

    I don’t think it’s unreasonable to consider this whole approach. And it is something Ive talked about, a little, in terms of paying extra attention to his SCOTUS appointment(s).

    What I would love to see… and of course I cant produce this! … would be some analysis, a scad beyond mere “speculation”, from those folks who are more lawyerly and/or  more political analyst type brains than mine … that looks at several things. (“evidence” for edger !)

    getting interrupted, back in a bit to say more…

    • ANKOSS on May 30, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    The simplest way to understand the extraordinary tension and frustration that is building up over the torture issue is to look at the politics of the pre-Civil War era. Half of Americans thought it was proper and necessary for cotton farmers to use human slaves. They could not be persuaded otherwise.

    Today, about half of Americans believe that it is proper and necessary for the enemies of the United States, even suspected enemies, to be tortured and murdered to keep us safe. They cannot be persuaded otherwise.

    Only a serious national trauma will bring the catharsis necessary to settle this matter. Patient reasoning will be of no avail. We must wait for history to settle this matter, and it is likely to be settled after considerable unpleasantness.  

  4. argued for a Presidential prerogative to order National Security wiretaps in TRUONG DINH HUNG V. U. S , 439 U.S. 1326 (1978), and after prevailing in the 4th Circuit (cert. denied) supported the original FISA statute to place some judicial oversight on those powers. The fight in Congress was then over just how much leeway would be accorded the President., with a slightly more restrictive bill eventually passing.

    Last year’s revisions (not the amnesty, but the provisions going forward) wiped out the Amendments to the original Carter draft in such areas as the amount of time before the Executive had to seek retroactive warrants in emergencies.

    I had a ringside seat in Truong, his codefendant’s attorney was representing me in an unrelated criminal case.

  5. It doesn’t change what we are doing one bit.

    If he IS doing it, he needs us to yell in support.

    Iow, speak out against torture.

    If he is NOT doing it we need to Yell too.

    Iow, speak out against torture.

    We need to continue pressuring all three branches, and until his policy is crystal clear…and it is FAR from it, continue to hold his feet to the fire.

    Which serves him just fine, since it allows him to point to us and say…”my base demands this.”

  6. Nightprowlkitty. The topic is fine and dandy, but your process is what’s catching my eye. Anyone capable of putting her doubts and uncertainty out in the public square but then balance so nicely the task of defending her own thoughts and contemplating alternative possibilities is, well, impressive. Nicely done.

    • Viet71 on May 30, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    you are willing to assume or believe the best about Obama.

    I’m not.  Not because of his FISA vote or some of his other facially deplorable actions.

    But because I know — we all know — that Obama could not have been a true agent of change (which would have required taking on the MIC-CIA-Wall Street power structure) and gotten elected.

    He’s in on the game, as far as I’m concerned, until his actions establish otherwise.

    • sharon on May 30, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    i too read and rec’d dengre’s comment.  have thought/hoped some of the same myself – particularly as the sotomayor nomination has unfolded.  i find myself digging for ways to find out what is going on with holder.  i have an ex who was at columbia law at the same time and is african american.  contacted him during the confirmation process to see if he could help with access to him.  unfortunately, while he knew him as a classmate he did not know him well.  however, i am wondering if he might know someone who knew him then and can shed some light on the workings of his mind.  there has to be a way to find out what is going on in the doj.  are they waiting for dawn johnsen to be confirmed and don’t want to risk losing her by making a bold public move?  do they have a process in mind that will entrap the republicans like the sotomayor nomination?  why have they decided to oppose the uighurs?  obama’s campaign was nearly seamless strategically.  that he managed to keep his cool and did not give in to the taunting and become “an angry black man” resonated deeply with me having spent nine years of my life with a brilliant african american lawyer educated in ivy league schools and was strategic in nearly every waking moment.  so i cannot help but wonder if obama and holder have thought this through and will do the right thing by their office and their country.  i thought about dengre’s comment for a long time last night as i was falling asleep and remembered holder’s statement to david swanson at the hearing a few weeks ago that david “would be proud of his country”.  i know there are various sides of holder – the same person who addressed the acs convention is the same one who defended chiquita banana.  if he is not corrupt he will applying the same skills to his position as ag and we will see prosecutions.  if so, then i think dengre’s analysis will be on point.  however, as buhdy said, we have to keep pushing and pushing in ways that are easy for people to understand. i am thinking that i need to work on a poster that resonates and we need to develop memes/slogans that can be easily repeated.  i don’t know that dengre’s strategy is something that can be distilled in this way.  i think discussion of it is good, but do not want to distract from the outrage or have people thinking we can sit back and trust obama/holder to do the right thing.  if they are in the process of doing that, great they know we will back them up, but if they are not, then we need to make a lot of noise and keep up our vigilance.  i will look to michael ratner, kevin zeese, david swanson, david waldman, and bob fertik for leadership because i think they may have more access than we do, but i do not know how much.  

    really glad you posted this essay.  sorry if my comments are disjointed.  i spent way too much time yesterday in diaries at dk and need to make up for it today by cleaning my garden and my erasing the slovenliness from my home.

  7. …but maybe not, as now Congress is weighing in.

    From Valtin’s (Jeff Kaye) post over at Firedoglake — he is speaking about the blow-up over the Telegraph story and Gibbs’ and the Pentagon’s bullshit responses to the pictures.  Seems Congress is getting in on the act:

    Last week, the Senate voted for the Detainee Photographic Records Protection Act, which would limit the reach of the Freedom of Information Act in this instance. The House could adopt a similar provision next month as part of an omnibus spending bill.


    Introduced by no less the patriots Joe Lieberman and Lindsay Graham.

    Senators Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have introduced the Detainee Photographic Records Protection Act.  The bill would “establish a procedure to block release of the detainee photos,” according to a press release.

    These photos are the “subject of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union.”

    More specific provisions in the bill from the release:

       * would authorize the Secretary of Defense, after consultation with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, to certify to the President that the disclosure of photographs like the ones at issue in the ACLU lawsuit would endanger the lives of our citizens or members of the Armed Forces or civilian employees of the United States government deployed abroad

       * certification would last five years and could be renewed by the Secretary of Defense if the threat to American personnel continues

       * language in the bill is clear that it would apply to the current ACLU lawsuit

    This measure will be offered as an amendment to the Iraq / Afghanistan War Supplemental Appropriations Act (H.R. 2346).

    Update (5/21): This measure has been added and adopted as an amendment to the supplemental.


  8. and I don’t believe in politicians whose every word and action seem directed to protect the rich and powerful from consequences actually fighting a subtle, duplicitous game to indict wealth and power.  Not to say pols aren’t duplicitous, it’s their specialty, but it is unidirectional, their duplicity toward we the masses is matched only by their servility to the hegemonic elite.

    • Joy B. on May 31, 2009 at 12:26 am

    …to be flipping off his own ‘base’ while courting what’s left of the hard core wingnut wackos. In this matter public opinion has no bearing anyway. The law is the law, it was deceptively interpreted and deliberately broken – the wheels of justice need to commence rolling forward a.s.a.p. Because if our system won’t do it, the World Court will.

    The public relations blitz Cheney has launched through the Ministry of Propaganda (a.k.a. “Mainstream Press”) is completely meaningless because the issue is law, not public opinion or political hackery or irrelevant claims that breaking the law “works.” Obama has positioned himself and his administration firmly in opposition to the rule of law, and by all appearance intends to obstruct justice from being done. “Why” is irrelevant too. For purposes of the law, “why” is no more an excuse than ignorance is. Obama is a Constitutional ‘expert’. He is not ignorant.

    There is nothing whatsoever to be gained by a pretense of ignorance, no sensible reason on earth to hide some obscure-but-ultimately-redemptive “strategy” behind a public facade of blatant obstructionism. And we’ve no reason at all to fantasize ourselves into INVENTING a cover story for this outrage just because Barack Obama tells us he’s “change we can believe in.” I don’t see any significant changes on these issues. Do you?

    I am not inventing (or believing) fantastic cover stories for inaction and stonewalling. I am waiting for the current admin to do the right thing about the ex-admin’s high crimes and misdemeanors. I get angrier with every flippant excuse, every ‘um’ and ‘ah’ that signals another lie or evasion, and I am frankly disgusted by cowardice before the sidewinder so recently crawled out from under his undisclosed rock to spit and hiss at us again. I am not scared of vipers. On my homestead we cut their heads off (with any of a number of impressive beheading devices) and hang them on the fence to warn away their kin.

    How long do you propose we wait to see if Obama’s going to abide by the law he knows by heart and prosecute the criminals who have brought us so low?

  9. That’s how we get it into our fight … make it a primary issue … for blogcasting, blograising, blogunteering, the whole 27′. Primary the SOB’s that are not stand up on the issue.

  10. to the argument that the full prosecution of these cases can eventually lead both to discovery of greater information about the crimes of the Bush regime and to the establishment of legal precedent repudiating its extra-Constitutional activities.

    But that’s the long way.

    The short way is simply for Obama to:

    1) Declassify any and all information currently being withheld on states secrets grounds,

    2) Expedite all current and future FOIA requests related to same,

    3) Pass binding legislation that abolishes the illegal government activities in question.

    Sure Obama could do that, but he won’t.

    • sharon on May 31, 2009 at 7:46 am

    and realized it might make more sense here, so here goes a second time.

    natalie klein’s view of why obama is refusing to release th photos:

    But what is far scarier about these images Obama refuses to release and that the Pentagon is likely to be lying about now, is that it is not the evidence of lower-level soldiers being corrupted by power — it is proof of the fact that the most senior leadership — Bush, Rumsfeld and Cheney, with Rice’s collusion — were running a global sex-crime trafficking ring with Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Baghram Air Base as the holding sites.

    • TMC on May 31, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    that Obama is playing, he is walking the fine line. He must defend the Constitution, executive privileged  

    • TMC on May 31, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    that Obama is playing, he is walking the fine line. He must defend the Constitution, executive privileged  

    • TMC on May 31, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    that Obama is playing, he is walking the fine line. He must defend the Constitution, executive privileged  

  11. I think the strategy of getting the right answer has a fair chance of succeeding. Whether “fair” is enough or not is another question worth asking.

    This approach has the added benefit of bringing along a lot more center-right Americans because it won’t look like an attack on the Bush years. It also can’t be used with any validity later in attacks.

    • robodd on May 31, 2009 at 8:16 pm

    that Obama has to be pressured into doing the right thing or that other branches should do it.

    Obama–the candidate of hope and change–is producing neither.  Well, what happened to that promise?

    He should be held to his promise, not allowed to defer or deflect it.

  12. So long as it doesn’t cause anyone to lay off. Then it becomes dangerous. And that’s the only reason I see behind all this analyzing. To get people to lay off him.

    I think the hows and the whys will be crystal clear when he’s finished doing whatever he’s going to do.

    But seeing how he’s actually using some of this power so far requires a continuous shove in the right direction, because we don’t know for sure who he is and what he wants.

  13. yet we have been there, done that yet nothing “changed”.

    Downing Street memo

    Pelosi non-impeachment back in 2006 and even my upchucking at Obama’s policy statements put out before he was even “elected”.  No I didn’t blog extensively about Obama clearly being a sock puppet of global oriented organizations I shut up and “went with the flow” so to speak of “hope and change”.  But then I sat there and observed those vacant seats to the left and right of his presidential inauguration day bullet proof podium and knew I was right and America was dead.

    • sharon on June 1, 2009 at 2:08 am

    i asked bob fertik what he thinks and his response was that the doj is overloaded and the strategy is being determined by what course will minimize the work load.  my response is that they need dawn johnsen.  and the pollyanna in me would like to think they are keeping it quiet in order to get her confirmed.

  14. What I take from this is that his plan is to force the other two branches of government, Congress and the judiciary, to tackle the problems left by the Cheney/Bush misAdministration, to have the DOJ defend the Bush era practices so that the courts have no choice but to reveal their views on those practices by their rulings, so that Congress then would have to deal with any adverse Supreme Court decisions by crafting legislation that the SCOTUS can’t deny, etc., etc.

    This is all giving me a headache, but that’s why we have OTC analgesics, no?  I sure hope all these suppositions turn out to be true.  In the meantime, I’m with buhdy……….YELL LOUDER!

    • dmc on June 1, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    In my book, it takes solid evidence for me to believe that a particular politician wants the opposite of what they are ostensibly pushing for. I tend to be open to conspiracy theories and the like, but for the most part, based on 20+ years of watching and participating at various levels of the political system, politicians 99% of the time push for what they want to see happen, and almost never for the opposite. The simple reason is that it’s almost impossible in this highly complex, multi-faceted world to get anything done at all unless everyone on your team is on the same page, every day, all the time, in all places. Anything else is just ineffective.

    So if dengre has some evidence to support his theory that Obama is arguing the Bush position in court because he really wants the opposite, then I’m all ears. But I haven’t seen any, and without any, I’m much more inclined to accept that he wants these powers just as badly as Bush did.

    Why? To stop a terrorist attack from happening on his watch, that’s why. It’s not evil, IMHO, I just happen to disagree. I don’t think the price is worth it. But then if something were to happen, no one would blame me. They would blame him.  

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