Chelsea Manning, who used to think she was Bradley Manning, and who was once a private first class in the U.S. Army before he became a traitor, now thinks he can be a U.S. senator from Maryland. Maryland may not be quite that deep shade of blue, but it’s a brave new era in the Democratic Party, where feverish Democrats think Donald Trump is insane and Bradley Manning is a woman because he says he is.
The incumbent Democrat, Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, an off-the-shelf conventional liberal who is sometimes confused in his politics but never in his conviction that he is, in fact, a man, writes off the challenge in the June 26 party primary as a Manning lark, perhaps a meadowlark, whose song might not be sweet enough even in deep blue notes.
Mr. Manning betrayed both his oath and his country by leaking a cache of 750,000 documents to WikiLeaks, including classified information about the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as sensitive diplomatic cables. The onetime intelligence analyst was arrested in May 2010, and three years later was convicted by court-martial on 20 counts of violating the Espionage Act, theft and computer fraud.
He was sentenced in August 2013 to 35 years in the Army brig at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and served seven of those years before President Barack Obama commuted his sentence to time served three days before he left office. Mr. Manning on his release moved to Maryland, where he decided that he is now Miss Manning. His military record, which in any other era would be regarded as falling somewhere this side of distinguished, would be enough to extinguish dreams of a successful career in politics. But now you never know.
His status as a traitor, who committed the largest leak of classified documents in the nation’s history, is not, however, a legal disqualifier for a seat in the U.S. Senate. Mr. Obama fixed that. In certain Democratic Party circles, where Democrats live so close to the edge of the party spectrum they risk falling off into space, Mr. Manning’s betrayal of oath and country is regarded as resume enhancement.
If he wins he might even qualify for a seat on the Senate Intelligence and Armed Services committees, where he could cut out Wikileaks as middle man and retail the nation’s intelligence secrets wholesale.
Liberal Democrats (are there any other kind?) who excoriate Mr. Trump for his tweets aren’t likely to see anything wrong with this incendiary Manning tweet posted last week on Law Enforcement Appreciation Day (and cleaned up here): “[Intercourse] the police,” followed by “#disarm the police.”
Despite — or perhaps because of — Mr. Cardin’s being a down-the-line liberal who rarely strays from the Democratic Party line, Mr. Manning apparently thinks the senator isn’t “progressive” enough. Writing as a contributor to the London Guardian, he wrote that “what we really need is a strong and unapologetic progressive to lead us.”
In a YouTube video announcing his candidacy, he says in dark and theatrically ominous tones, “We don’t need more or better leaders, we need someone willing to fight. We need to actually take the reins of power from them. We need to challenge them at every level.”
Sometime pundit Glenn Greenwald doubled down on the theme in a blog post on his website Intercept under a headline that says all that he had to say: “Centrist Dems Launch Smear Campaign Against Young Trans Woman, All to Keep an Old Straight White Man in Power.”
Mr. Cardin, 74, first elected to the Senate in 2006 after serving 20 years in the House, is described as “one of the most standard, banal, typical, privileged and mediocre politicians” in Congress, who “has remarkably few achievements for being in Congress for so many years.” The senator can take solace in the fact that many voters will consider the source.
Beyond his dishing the nation’s intelligence secrets to anyone listening, Mr. Manning’s achievements are few, too. As a senator, he would be an authentic celebrity, much celebrated in LGBT circles and in the media. But he could withdraw that celebrity at any time simply by discarding a dress and putting his pants on again. And then what? His followers would feel as betrayed as his country felt. The circle that goes around comes around.