Marginalized Democratic Progressive Politicians Agree: Clemency for Snowden!

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 6 2014 5:07 PM

Marginalized Democratic Progressive Politicians Agree: Clemency for Snowden!

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Nine out of 10 Bernie Sanderses agree.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

I've got a new interview today with former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, the most bold possible challenger to Hillary Clinton in a 2016 primary. You can have your Elizabeth Warrens (legitimately not interested) and your Martin O'Malleys (too boring): Schweitzer is willing to consider a campaign, as long as he doesn't have to depend on dirty money to do it. How else will he get the Democratic Party to sound like he wants it to sound? For example, while Hillary Clinton remains silent, Schweitzer is endorsing clemency for Edward Snowden.

If Edward Snowden is a criminal, then so are a lot of people that are working within the CIA and the NSA who have been spying illegally on American citizens. They ought to grant Snowden clemency.
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Via the Burlington Free Press, I see Sen. Bernie Sanders has discovered the same hymnal.

The information disclosed by Edward Snowden has been extremely important in allowing Congress and the American people to understand the degree to which the NSA has abused its authority and violated our constitutional rights. On the other hand, there is no debate that Mr. Snowden violated an oath and committed a crime. In my view, the interests of justice would be best served if our government granted him some form of clemency or a plea agreement that would spare him a long prison sentence or permanent exile from the country whose freedoms he cared enough about to risk his own freedom.

Sanders and Schweitzer find themselves representing my favorite kind of populism: rural, anti-government progressivism, the sort that trusts the state as a tool of economic fairness but admonishes it for interfering in people's lives. What are the odds that Snowden himself remains a political topic in, say, May 2015, when Democratic candidates for president start debating? No idea. But with this one answer, Schweitzer and Sanders have codified the proper liberal position on spying, for voters who don't reflexively defend the president.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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