Whether Manning is guilty or not, whether he should be prosecuted or lauded, whether he is a whistle-blower or an indiscriminate dumper of information, it is clear that Manning's case is an example of a larger trend in American society: The powerless and economically vulnerable are held to punishingly harsh standards, while the rich and powerful get away with a slap on the wrist (if that). Steal $100 of food from the grocery store? You go to jail. Steal $10,000 from your employees through shady employment practices? Worst thing that happens is you might have to pay them back (but probably not). If an antipoverty organization is involved in a scandal, Congress cuts off its funding. But if a big bank indulges in racist lending practices to line the pockets of its executives, it gets a stipulation-free bailout.
According to Manning's lawyer, "his dream would be to go to college, go into public service, and perhaps one day, run for public office. And I asked Brad, why would he want to do that? And he said, ‘I want to make a difference. I want to make a difference in this world.'"