President Obama, in a final wave of the clemency that has earned him the nickname “Pardoner-in-chief,” announced Tuesday that he would commute the majority of Chelsea Manning’s 35 year sentence.
Manning, a transgender former Army intelligence analyst, was convicted on a range of charges in 2010 related to the theft and disbursement of classified material. The charges would have kept Manning in prison for several decades; Obama’s penstroke means she will be free as of May 17.
Manning has become a cause celebre for the LGBT community. The former “Bradley” has said that her struggle with gender dysphoria while deployed in Iraq led her to make the decision she did. Since being in prison, she has allegedly attempted suicide on two occasions.
Obama’s critics, however, were not moved by Manning’s gender struggle. They contend that Obama has made life less safe for American soldiers and spies. Furthermore, they say that Obama’s decision to pardon Manning is a bizarre choice at a time when WikiLeaks has become such a thorn in the Democratic Party’s side.
“I think it would strengthen his position considerably,” former Deputy Attorney General Tom Dupree said of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. “If the United States government said we are going to pardon Manning for those offenses, I think it makes it that much tougher to then say we’re going to drop the hammer on the person that published that information.”
House Speaker Paul Ryan also issued a statement condemning Manning’s commutation. “Chelsea Manning’s treachery put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation’s most sensitive secrets,” he said. “President Obama now leaves in place a dangerous precedent that those who compromise our national security won’t be held accountable for their crimes.”
Well, he would have left that precedent regardless, thanks to his Justice Department’s failure to prosecute Hillary Clinton. This is just another example of how seriously the Obama administration takes the preservation of national security…which is to say, not seriously at all. But if we rounded up all of Obama’s errors in this sphere, Manning’s release is probably the least of them.
Even so, it was another bad move from a bad president.