Thursday, May 21, 2009

To the Obama Apologists

To anybody curious about whether or not we are a nation of laws, a nation that believes that felonies committed by those at the highest levels of government deserve to be prosecuted, I suggest taking a look at this blog post from Gawker. The writer describes a "secret meeting" that happened between Obama and his top advisers and leaders from human rights and civil liberties groups, and reads, in part:

"The purpose of the meeting seems pretty clear—-Obama and company, according to Isikoff, reached out to the leaders of the various groups present and basically said, "Ok, what do we need to do to make you people happy so this will all go away." In fact, Isikoff quoted Obama as saying something along the lines of "(Attorney General) Holder is having to spend way too much time on this." The leaders of the groups present floated the idea that Obama should appoint some sort of "truth commission" to investigate everything fully, thereby taking the burden off of Holder and the Justice Department, but Obama shot that idea down, going on to say that he was "firmly against" any sort of investigatory committee."

It should go without saying that Obama is better than Bush, or McCain, but that in and of itself doesn't excuse his advancement of policies that are in direct opposition to the platform he ran on, and in direct opposition to the policies advocated by the majority of his constituents. Either the law is the law, and those who, in bad faith, provided bogus legal cover for torture--thereby breaking domestic and international law--deserve to be prosecuted, or they don't. And if our elected leaders decide that criminal behavior at the top levels of government doesn't deserve to be investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law, then we are simply not a functioning democracy.

(One could, and should, argue that there are multiple ways in which we are not a healthy, functioning democracy. This is just one of them.)

Obama's lofty rhetoric today at his press conference is fine and good, but without concrete action--such as prosecutions--that would punish past law breakers and deter future ones, we as a country are living in a fantasy world, placated by promises of past and future greatness, wrapped tightly in our blanket of exceptionalism. Without investigations and consequences for unlawful behavior, what good is rhetoric?

Regardless of whether these investigations would "take up valuable time" that could be used to fix other domestic and international problems, or if they would "stir up more partisan rancor" (a phrase I find reprehensible--as though there is too much opposition in Washington), or if they would somehow "hurt the troops," if we as a country believe in the law, then its full force should be brought down on those government and military leaders who broke it. All of the justifications for why we should "move on" are simply apologies for murderers and criminals. Those who advance those apologies will, eventually and correctly, be considered criminals themselves.

One last quote from the article:

"At one point, one of the group leaders took a shot at Obama, saying that he was "allowing President Bush's policies to become his own." According to Isikoff, this pissed Obama off greatly, to the point where he was visibly shaken by the comment, "demonstrably not pleased" according to Maddow."

If Obama doesn't want to be associated with those policies, there are clear and decisive actions he can take. Those actions also have the happy coincidence of being Constitutionally obligated. It would be fantastic if that, and that alone, was a strong enough reason to force Obama to act.

1 comment:

Dan Fontaine said...

I agree with this post but did anyone really think he would/could do all the things he said while campaigning?