February 10, 2009

Subpoena Eric Holder

Throughout the presidential campaign I said repeatedly that I thought Barack Obama was a centrist Democrat rather than the true progressive I would have liked and many of his supporters believed he was. So while I'd like to see, for instance, a Krugmanesque balls-to-the-wall stimulus package, I'm neither surprised nor terribly disappointed that we won't be getting one.

But I also said repeatedly that on certain issues, the Republican party had become so extremist that the centrist position (both ideologically and in terms of polling data) would be a radical return to sanity and Constitutional government. One of these, of course, was the matter of torture and the abuse of executive power in order to commit it.

This is why Obama's decision to embrace Bush's morally and legally bankrupt arguments in the case of Binyam Mohamed is both shocking and deeply disturbing.

Greenwald has the rundown, naturally.

What was abusive and dangerous about the Bush administration's version of the States Secret privilege -- just as the Obama/Biden campaign pointed out -- was that it was used not (as originally intended) to argue that specific pieces of evidence or documents were secret and therefore shouldn't be allowed in a court case, but instead, to compel dismissal of entire lawsuits in advance based on the claim that any judicial adjudication of even the most illegal secret government programs would harm national security. That is the theory that caused the bulk of the controversy when used by the Bush DOJ -- because it shields entire government programs from any judicial scrutiny -- and it is that exact version of the privilege that the Obama DOJ yesterday expressly advocated (and, by implication, sought to preserve for all Presidents, including Obama). ...

We don't actually have a system of government (or at least we're not supposed to) where we rely on the magnanimity and inherent Goodness of specific leaders to exercise secret powers wisely. That, by definition, is how grateful subjects of benevolent tyrants think ("this power was bad in Bush's hands because he's bad, but it's OK in Obama's hands because he is good and kind"). Countries that are nations of laws rather than of men don't rely on blind faith in the good character of leaders to prevent abuse. They rely on what we call "law" and "accountability" and "checks and balances" to provide those safeguards -- exactly the type that Democrats, when it came to the States Secret privilege, long insisted upon before January 20, 2009.

Our best hope now — and it's the longest of long shots — is that Patrick Leahy gets his truth commission — and that its mandate doesn't end at January 20, 2009.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


They'll never be brought to justice, and that's all there is to it. We voted Bush in twice (sort of) so what he did was on our watch, not Obama's.

The time to stop the torture and any of the other Bush transgressions was when those things were happening. Instead, everybody was a jingoistic ra ra go USA asshole. Too bad, we blew. Obama's job is to save this tits up country from itself, not to get revenge for the last 8 years. If that's why you voted him in, I don't know what to say for you...

Centrist is a stupid term, and I wish people would stop using it. The political spectrum is absurdly relative, and one person's centrist is a very different animal from another person's. Technically there is conceivably some sort of way to objectively determine what is centrist, but due to political balkanization that will never happen. So I vote we retire that.

Anon, one could argue that, since the torture scandal didn't reach its fullest extent until after Bush was reelected, the US population did, in fact, do its utmost to end it. I'm not entirely sure what you wanted. Armed revolution? Because the US population as a whole did what was within its power under constitutional law--namely, giving the Republicans two extremely sharp checks on power. But if you would like to continue your moral argument for monarchy, be my guest.

Now, as for the issue as a whole, the US has had the historical policy of not handing legal punishments to actions done in office. This is not the most just course, but it is surely the most expedient.

This may be Leahy's best idea ever.

Heard your mom got a job as a penie Holder.

It seems like Holder completely missed the boat. This would have be perfect opportunity to discuss how far America has come in just a few decades. Look at race relations in Europe to get an idea. I think there's this idea the United States is more racist than our counterparts and it's not true. We should be celebrating the fact that truly no position of influence is unattainable because of skin color. Instead Holder offered these divisive remarks that are not constructive.

When did we become such a nation of negativity? Didn't this administration promise us hope and change? We should quit tearing ourselves down and concentrate on the tasks at hand

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