This is all too easy for me to write.
I’ve spent the last eight months trying very hard to agree with then-President-Elect Obama- that we should look forward, not behind us, on the issue(s) of what the Bush Administration did to make us safe. I sympathize with President Obama on this one. There is so much work for us to do on policy! Health care, climate change, credit card reform- and God knows what else is on that list!
Moreover, I agree with the basic premise that the Bush administration, by and large, did what they did in the honest belief that they were doing what (they thought) was necessary to save American lives (and perhaps atone for their monumental fuckup). Well, I give up. I can’t get behind this, even though I cannot condemn President Obama for his impulses on this one.
Attorney General Eric Holder must act, regardless of the costs. If Vice President Cheney ordered the CIA, as has been recently reported, to NOT brief Congress on matters that the CIA is required by law to so brief Congress, well, that’s it. Holder MUST act in order for us to keep this republic our founders gave us.
Much of American history is defined by the executive branch’s ever-growing hoard of power. War, strife, and discord demand a strong and rapid central response. The executive branch is the one most able to mount such a response in dire times. I understand the tendency for power to accumulate in on branch to the detriment of the other two. However, the executive branch rarely cedes any power back, and as far as I know it has never returned all that it took in a time of crisis.
Health care reform matters more than I can say. Climate change legislation is even more urgent. Serious investigations of the Bush administration WILL delay, derail, and possibly destroy our hopes on those issues and so many others. There will be real and tangible costs in blood and treasure if Holder acts. This is no small distraction. The Congress and the press will expend an incredible amount of effort and concentration on the misdeeds of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and lord only knows how many others. We won’t get much else done for awhile. Depending on how this plays out it could even cost us in 2010. We cannot know the costs of this going into it, other than to say that they will be felt for the rest of our lives. We will be diminished, noticeably so.
The costs of inaction are greater, though. We may lose thousands, indeed millions of people to diseases we could have otherwise treated. We may lose thousands, indeed millions, to rising oceans if we do not act soon. These are both tragic possibilities if we do not seize the moment. However, neither of them will end the human existence. Neither will the death of our republic. However, the death of our system of governance will set us back more than either other. A healthy democracy is able to adapt, harnessing human potential and talent in a beautiful and destructive synthesis. Tyranny extinguishes the light that we need to see what is ahead, and how to plot our course.
President Obama is making the wrong choice for perhaps the right reasons. He has curbed most of the excesses of his predecessor, as any thinking person would have expected. However, he has not relinquished all (or even perhaps most) of the powers his predecessor claimed. Using these powers sparingly and with the best of intent is an improvement, yes, but ultimately it sets us up for the greatest of tyrannies. President Obama is creating a tragic precedent – torture, warrantless-wiretapping, and other flagrant violations of our Constitution are no more than political disagreements. Some choose not to commit these sins, but none rise to the occasion to end them.
Attorney General Eric Holder MUST act, regardless of the costs! The more we learn, the more obvious it becomes to me (at least) that President Obama is telling future generations that torture was a bad thing that he would stop but not punish. What happens when another president faces an impossible situation and sees a bloody shortcut to actionable intelligence? He will know that his successor may end these excesses but that there simply is no precedent for holding him any more accountable than what the democratic process already guarantees – repudiation at the ballot box.
The attorney general must serve the law! Our Constitution is a trap, created by men to use human nature against itself such that liberty would survive the worst they could foresee. Three competing branches, co-equals, each able to curb the excesses of the other, working both together and against one another to the ultimate betterment of all. The system is failing. We cannot count on every president that is to come being a person of character and restraint. Eric Holder MUST act because if he does not we will do this again.