Chelsea No

Chelsea Manning has decided to run for the U.S. Senate. Hey, it’s a free country. We let Robin Ficker run for office, so why not Chelsea Manning? That doesn’t mean it’s not an easy lift for Democrats to  say hell no and renominate Sen. Ben Cardin.

Chelsea Manning is a traitor. While supporters view her actions of those of a whistleblower, she turned over hundreds of thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks. Since her release, Manning has taken responsibility for her actions:

In an interview broadcast on Friday morning on ABC’s Good Morning America, Manning said she had “accepted responsibility” for her actions.

“Anything I’ve done, it’s me,” she said. “There’s no one else. No one told me to do this. Nobody directed me to do this. This is me. It’s on me.”

Taking responsibility may not mean accepting that what she did was wrong. However, even if she views her actions as serving the larger good, accepting responsibility should mean that she accepts that she grossly violated her oath and the trust placed in her.

A major argument for Manning’s pardon was compassion over her mental state. While incarcerated at Leavenworth, she tried to commit suicide twice. Indeed, her deteriorated mental health was a key part of Manning’s defense at her trial. While lots of people have mental health issues and still serve valuable public roles, this seems a big step less than one year after her release from prison.

In her leaks, she chose to give the information to Julian Assange, someone who is not an American and with no affection, let alone loyalty, to this country. Or, as it turns out, to liberal democracy. While holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London resisting extradition on rape charges, Assange worked directly to undermine American democracy by working in service to Putin.

Manning’s campaign announcement seems especially ill-timed coming less than one week after Sen. Ben Cardin released a detailed report on Russia and Putin’s coordinated interference in our elections and actions that the U.S. needs to take to protect them from similar problems in 2018 and 2020.

While Manning has neither the experience nor the record to be a good senator, Ben Cardin has quietly worked hard for Maryland and the U.S. for decades. Cardin is not just knowledgeable but effective – a rare enough combination in public life. He has advocated for liberal causes since before Manning was born.

Manning refers to Maryland as her “home state” but she was born in Oklahoma and grew up there and Wales. She lived for 15 months with an aunt in Potomac. While military personnel often have short stays in a place for obvious reasons, even if she returned occasionally, one wonders how up she is on the state. Does she know, say, where Garrett and Somerset Counties are located?

Some make the case that Manning’s campaign will lead to debate over important questions. If anything, her record as a traitor will simply serve to undermine legitimate and important questions over Russian interference and American policy more generally.

Manning will undoubtedly attract lots of press coverage as a celebrity. Donald Trump did too. Perhaps it’s time we seek other qualities in our public officials than the ability to command media attention, especially when we have an outstanding public servant in Ben Cardin already in office.