Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Truth Is Out There

You just have to be willing to look for it.

When asked last week President elect Obama (less than 72 hours to go!) made it fairly clear that he doesn't intend to do any digging into the transgressions of the Bush administration. Saying that he would rather "look forwards as opposed to backwards."

Now I understand all of the arguments about moving on and avoiding the partisanship that might be deepened by such an investigation but I'm with Tom Ricks and Paul Krugman who both responded with strong calls for the importance of the truth and of consequences for bad actors to the stability and future of our nation.

Krugman gets much more detailed but the gist of it is...

I’m sorry, but if we don’t have an inquest into what happened during the Bush years — and nearly everyone has taken Mr. Obama’s remarks to mean that we won’t — this means that those who hold power are indeed above the law because they don’t face any consequences if they abuse their power...

Why, then, shouldn’t we have an official inquiry into abuses during the Bush years?

One answer you hear is that pursuing the truth would be divisive, that it would exacerbate partisanship. But if partisanship is so terrible, shouldn’t there be some penalty for the Bush administration’s politicization of every aspect of government?

Alternatively, we’re told that we don’t have to dwell on past abuses, because we won’t repeat them. But no important figure in the Bush administration, or among that administration’s political allies, has expressed remorse for breaking the law. What makes anyone think that they or their political heirs won’t do it all over again, given the chance?
And he finished with this kicker...

Meanwhile, about Mr. Obama: while it’s probably in his short-term political interests to forgive and forget, next week he’s going to swear to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” That’s not a conditional oath to be honored only when it’s convenient.

And to protect and defend the Constitution, a president must do more than obey the Constitution himself; he must hold those who violate the Constitution accountable. So Mr. Obama should reconsider his apparent decision to let the previous administration get away with crime. Consequences aside, that’s not a decision he has the right to make.
Ricks comments along the same lines saying that a failure to investigate would have two big problems...
First, it will look like the rest of the world like a cover-up. Second, I think we need to know what we've done, if only to avoid repeating some mistakes.
Ricks suggests a truth an reconciliation type tribunal which is a pretty good idea and one that I think may have been floated by some members of Congress (haven't googled that yet, update may follow).

The bottom line for me is that I'm heartened by the return of the rule of law but that won't mean much if we just sweep the past eight years under the rug.

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