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Boxed In

7:57 AM, Apr 24, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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The Washington Post's front-page report on internal deliberations over the release of the top-secret memos detailing Bush-era interrogation techniques notes that one of the Obama administration's primary motivations was entirely political:

A source familiar with White House views said Obama's advisers are further convinced that letting the public know exactly what the past administration sanctioned will undermine what they see as former vice president Richard B. Cheney's effort to "box Obama in" by claiming that the executive order heightened the risk of a terrorist attack.

If President Obama and his aides were confident that the decisions they'd made regarding the detention and interrogation of high-value terrorists were correct -- that they had, in fact, made America safer and that the American public shared their disdain for the aggressive tactics approved by the previous administration -- the release of these memos would have been viewed as an unnecessary distraction. Instead, the Obama White House feared that criticism from Dick Cheney, a man the left considers so toxic as to be an albatross around the neck of the Republican party, was so dangerous that it had to be countered with the release of memos that posed not only a political risk to their own administration but also a national security risk to the United States.

In the event, the American public seems to take a Cheneyesque view of the document dump. Rasmussen reports that 58 percent of Americans "believe the Obama administration's recent release of CIA memos about the harsh interrogation methods used on terrorism suspects endangers the national security of the United States." That means that Cheney already boxed in the Obama administration, prompting an overreaction that has turned the debate over detention policy into a runaway train. A public that seems to adore this administration is, on this issue, firmly against it.

The strategy of "boxing in" a political opponent requires that your opponent holds an untenable position -- that the only way for him to get out of the box is to move to your more responsible position, at which point he can be accused not only of being wrong, but of being naive and indecisive. Cheney is now asking for the release of additional memos showing the fruits of the harsh techniques his administration employed in it's considerably less apologetic war against al Qaeda. The box is closing even tighter.

But Cheryl Gay Stolberg reports that "even some Republicans say they wish the former vice president would disappear."

Among them is Meghan McCain, the daughter of the Republicans' 2008 presidential nominee, Senator John McCain, who appeared Thursday on the ABC show "The View."

"You had your eight years," Ms. McCain declared. "Go away."

Whatever Dick Cheney is doing is clearly working, and Republicans should probably disregard any political advice offered by guests on "The View" and repeated by the New York Times.