Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Case for Accountability

From Congress' Matters David Waldman:

Senate Democrats and those inside the Obama administration are rightly concerned with reports that Republicans are still threatening to filibuster the nomination of Dawn Johnsen to head up DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). Grassroots and netroots activists are urged to voice their support for the nomination, which is a priority for the administration.

However, it's difficult for me to muster a great deal of enthusiasm for and/or invest political capital in the fight to install a highly qualified and highly ethical OLC chief in the face of the administration's retroactive immunization of the unqualified and highly unethical OLC staff that attempted to provide cover for programs of torture. I'm pleased to have such strong and talented candidates to fill the jobs, and ideally, those are exactly the types of people you want filling these important roles in providing legal advice to the administration.

But really, if the message is that if you stray horribly afield on torture and detainee policies that even the Bush "administration" DOJ will rebuke your memos and utterly reject the "legal reasoning" -- if that's even a fair term to use for what's in those memos -- you will not only not be held to account, but those who followed your advice will also have nothing to answer for, then some small part of me asks who cares about filling those jobs with qualified people?
Though it would be vindicating in many ways, I would hate to see the "Torture Memos" review become a witch hunt or political revenge theater (mostly because it hands the Republicans their "martyr" act). And one of the many things forgotten about what Nixon did to this country is that the ugliness of his trial, and exit from office, permanently effecting the Executive office, and -- until Dick Cheney -- rendering the President less effective, acting in fear of prosecution at all times. But what happened to Nixon was necessary, even cathartic for the country. Is this situation the same?

I think it's important that prosecution talk only arises during the investigation in cases where the law breaking is blatant, not implied by "intent," but yes, considering the pervasive taint that the entire system suffers going forward should there be no retribution for the past, this investigation, and any subsequent prosecutions are key to maintaining a healthy, reliable governmental system. Justified prosecutions will go a long way to restoring integrity and faith.

No comments:

Post a Comment