Saturday, July 19, 2008
Can't We All Just Get Along?
If it works for soft drinks, why won't it work for the abuse of civil liberties?
If there is one word I am utterly sick of hearing from the mainstream press, it's "bipartisanship." Now, I am not adverse to the idea of both political parties getting together and actually getting good stuff done. It's just that, with Congress currently consisting of an obstructionist Republican minority and a diffident Democratic majority, "bipartisanship" is more often than not taken to mean, "Just shut up and bend over for whoever holds power." It doesn't matter what the government actually does, just as long as it goes smoothly.
Take, for example, this article in Newsweek, as written by Stuart Taylor, which explains that the best thing we can do for this whole torture imbroglio is to... pardon everyone involved and then invite them to tell us what happened, so that we can help those affected and just put the whole thing behind us. Otherwise, it could "touch off years of partisan warfare."
Now, I agree with Taylor's general idea -- a body does need to be set up that will expose just how far our disastrous torture policy has gone and how many people have been hurt by it. But when he cites South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, he forgets to mention that pardons were promised only after testimony was shared and the crime in question was judged to be politically motivated. Here, he talks about handing out a blanket pardon before hand and then hopefully, maybe, getting an answer or two out of the Bush Administration.
And therein lies the problem. Because the Bush Administration is not going to do shit if it knows it won't get punished. Cheney learned a lesson from Watergate, and that lesson, twisted and malodorous as it may be, was, "If there's someone to make it better in the end, then the crime pretty much never happened in the first place." Even today, the Bush Administration has been served with subpoena after subpoena for misdeeds ranging from political interference with federal attorneys to the Plame scandal and has responded at every turn with, "I'd like to see you try." By offering an escape plan, practically gratis, there's an even greater chance of everything vanishing straight down the memory hole. Furthermore, there's little disincentive for when the next abusive twit takes office and decides to play merry hell with the Constitution.
But, no. Everything needs to be done properly. Everything needs to be done politely. No one must ever face punishment for the fact that they have blatantly violated the rule of law. Because to do so is partisan, and that's the last thing anyone wants to be these days.
Hell, some people would rather be the guy who let a torturer get off scot free than a partisan.