Putting Toothpaste Back in the Tube
I noted yesterday that the torture/enhanced interrogation techniques debate could very well swamp the possibility of any legislative bipartisanship for the foreseeable future. And, the announcement today that the Pentagon will release hundreds of photos from various prisoner abuse investigations will likely further increase the partisan bitterness. But partisan conflict is not the only threat to President Obama’s policy agenda. Of equal concern to the president is the potential for fissures to develop within the Democratic Party over how and whether to pursue further investigation into the Bush Administration program.
As a result, you could see the pressure working on Obama this past week, as he got it relentlessly from both the left and the right. Over the past few days, it really started to feel like he was losing control of the issue. As administration officials seem to understand, once these kinds of political conflagrations gain momentum, they typically take on a life of their own. So, I was not surprised to see Obama attempt to regain control yesterday with the help of the Democratic leadership in the Senate.
Whether he can effectively do so, given the emotion that has already been released on both sides of the issue, still remains to be seen. You can apply your favorite well-worn metaphor to the situation President Obama now faces – toothpaste out of the tube, horse out of the barn, genie out of the bottle, or an open Pandora’s Box – as any would be apt to describe what we are now witnessing. How the president handles the issue of torture and enhanced interrogation is rapidly shaping up to be one of the biggest tests of the new administration.

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