14 July 2009


In this MSNBC clip (in which, incidentally, a firedoglake blogger says the word "blowjob") we see a good summary of one of the arguments against investigation of the Cheney/Bush assassination policies. Says Matt Lewis of politicsdaily.com and townhall.com and rampagingasshole.com (I may have made that last one up):
I think the intervening sort-of problem with that is the unprecedented nature of looking back at a past administration, and there I think there is a danger of politicizing it and setting a precedent that every administration that makes decisions based on life and death will have somebody investigate them.

There's some other nonsense added in at times (Lewis in the clip goes on a bit about "separation of powers" concerns) but they're generally red herrings. This above is the main problem for a lot of conservatives (mostly the neocon variety): they don't want to set a precedent that it's okay for future administrations to investigate the possibly-illegal actions of previous administrations, when those actions were taken under stress.

There are several false assumptions inherent in this protest:
  • This is something new. That's actually far from clear. The main previous example we have of items of this grotesque nature might be Nixon, and he got a pardon from his Vice President before the hammer could really fall. But isn't that pardon and the associated public scorn essentially an admission of wrongdoing by that previous administration?
  • That stress and "life or death circumstances" exonerate wrongdoing. Any child can tell you that being in a bad situation doesn't justify all actions: when someone takes your toy, you can't hit them. While certainly mitigating circumstances should be taken into account, they're not a magical blanket that allows you to enact secret assassination programs without congressional approval possibly in defiance of the Constitution. Do the neocons think that the people are so stupid as to be unable to recognize the circumstances and judge accordingly?
  • That succeeding administrative investigations are a bad thing. The vast majority of malfeasance and nonfeasance in our political system is publicized by an opponent in a political environment. Things are set up in a competitive way for just that purpose: it's the best incentive for honesty. Watchdogs are most alert and scrupulous when it's for their own gain, and you are most careful and moral when it's in your own interest.
Really, think about it. If a President (or Vice-President) can set up secret programs to do whatever he wants, even if it may be illegal, and believes he needs no approval from the other branches of government, then how the hell could he ever be held accountable if the Executive doesn't do it once he's gone? Who's going to uncover crimes - the judges and congresspeople who don't even know the programs exist?

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