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Truth, Justice, and the American Way

danps's picture
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No Associated Press content was harmed in the writing of this post. Cross posted from Pruning Shears.

Prairie Weather inspired this week's post. I have been unsuccessfully trying to write about what may be a vast, unexamined record of wrongdoing from the administration, and a brief exchange started by PW finally got me unstuck. Stuart Taylor Jr. has argued for pardons, Cass Sunstein agrees and Victoria Toensing has added (via) her own dubious logic to the drumbeat. A consensus has developed among political and media elites that no good purpose would be served by enforcing the law(!) and so for the sake of a smooth transfer of power and a calming of the political waters in the capitol we must let it all pass.

On the face of it I am vehemently opposed to ignoring criminality for the sake of comity. There is no position outlined by the pro-pardon group that is the slightest bit compelling to me. Sunstein's belief that "I don't think it's appropriate at this stage to attempt to impeach two presidents consecutively" is completely absurd. At what stage would it be appropriate? If one party impeaches a President in a fit of cheap political grandstanding is his successor inoculated against it? What kind of crime would it take for Sunstein? Has anyone heard specifics? All I've heard so far are banalities along the lines of "any crime has to be taken quite seriously" and "are we in favor of immunizing people who worked in the White House in the last eight years from accountability for criminal acts? I don't think anyone should be in favor of that." Thanks, professor.

Toensing's warning that "[i]f we don't protect these people who are proceeding in good faith, no one will ever take chances" is outrageous as well. "We" do not need to protect people - the law does that. One of the signal achievements of this administration has been successfully advancing the notion of a patriotic duty to break the law. If the President "asks" individuals or businesses to do something plainly illegal out of loyalty to America then they may do so (even if they have access to an entire department of lawyers who could tell them they are breaking the law). A simple appeal by the President trumps the law, plain and simple. This is the concept of good faith that Toensing advances, and is euphemistically reduced to "taking chances". What she describes is the absolute authority of the dictator. As for Taylor, see Andrew.

The crux of the problem is that the Republican party has come to view the law as entirely political. When Congress passes a law, or a President follows it (or doesn't), or the Justice Department enforces it (or doesn't), or the Supreme Court rules on it - these are all political footballs to be kicked around, not fundamental building blocks of a functional society. In other words, lawless, ignorant, contemptible hacks are fine as long as they are OUR lawless, ignorant, contemptible hacks. The collapse of integrity and wholesale politicization at Justice is not a problem in and of itself; it only is a problem if a Democrat does it. (The fact that they vote along party lines on these issues when they don't walk out entirely should be all the proof you need.)

In an environment like that we will never get a full and satisfactory investigation. Every step of the way some GOP loyalist will cry foul and insist the REAL politicization is the belated enforcement. If we want to bypass all that maybe we should take up PW's suggestion of "giving the country clotheslines laden with dirty linen and encouraging the voters to smell the stench and make up their own minds." Or as John Mecklin put it, "[u]ntil we know the entire story of the conduct of the war on terror, a new story — with America reassuming a believable role as a guarantor of human rights — can't really begin." We could get a much better idea of the full truth by granting immunity and compelling testimony with a threat of perjury hanging over it.

I have to admit that such a scenario is in a way extremely unpalatable to me. Crimes have already been committed and a good part of me would be outraged if I knew that we were forever giving away the opportunity to see justice for them. But the question may come down to, would you rather have some justice with some truth, or no justice with full truth? And would you rather have maybe a handful of convictions that are forever criticized or a full toxic dump of truth that even the most rabid partisan will not approach? And wouldn't the existence of such a thing, one way or another, create a justice of its own?


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gyrfalcon's picture
Submitted by gyrfalcon on

Except it's a moot argument. That horse has already left the barn. There will be a token couple of hearings in the next Congress, a few third-level administration types will be hectored and excoriated and some righteous fulmination will happen, and then everybody will dust off their hands and move on.

The whole structure of governance of this country has been irrevocably changed, with the invaluable assistance of the Democratic Party, and all that's left for us to do is to get used to it.

Sorry to be so pessimistic, but under the rosiest circumstances, Obama will be president with a Dem. congress, and he's made it crystal clear he wants the bulk of those presidential powers for himself, and more importantly wants soooo badly to "work with" the Republicans, he's going to actively oppose any such thing ever happening-- not that Congress or anybody like that would be rarin' to go anyway.

It'll be the ultimate triumph of Broderism.

Actually, I hate to say it, but I have to wonder if there would't be a somewhat better chance of a bit more serious action from the Dem. congress if McCain wins, giving the pink tutu congressional Dems. a good excuse to flex their flabby partisan muscles.

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

--even Feingold does.

There's never gonna be punishment for the GOP, and from Nixon to Reagan to Dubya they just keep escalating--in 15 years we're gonna get a GOP warlord for real.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

Why not reconciliation without truth? Then no one has to smell that awful smell (except those who already do)?

Both parties and the whole Village agree that this is the right thing to do (except for Debbie Downers like That Clinton Woman), so let's just move on. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

That certainly seems to be the plan, eh? We just have to keep agitating - even if we think nothing will come of it.

Submitted by lambert on

In fact, it's a recipe for making the Village even sicker and crazier than it already is, since now there's a whole new field for blackmail and bad narrative (which it strikes me are two sides of the same coin, for some reason -- not sure why).

[ ] Very tepidly voting for Obama [ ] ?????. [ ] Any mullah-sucking billionaire-teabagging torture-loving pus-encrusted spawn of Cthulhu, bless his (R) heart.