Obama Leaves Door Open to Investigating Bush Administration

When the Democrats took control of Congress there was hope that the Bush administration would be held accountable for its actions. Impeachment was taken off the table and so far the committee investigations haven’t amounted to very much. Should a Democrat be elected in 2008 there is the possibility that the Justice Department could investigate the Bush administration but I’m not very optimistic that anything will be done. Although Obama frequently speaks of moving beyond previous conflicts and turning the page, he did provide some hope that the Justice Department will investigate actions of the Bush administration  in response to a question on this topic. Will Bunch asked reports asking Obama about such investigations:

I mentioned the report in my question, and said “I know you’ve talked about reconciliation and moving on, but there’s also the issue of justice, and a lot of people — certainly around the world and certainly within this country — feel that crimes were possibly committed” regarding torture, rendition, and illegal wiretapping. I wanted to know how whether his Justice Department “would aggressively go after and investigate whether crimes have been committed.”

Obama’s answer:

What I would want to do is to have my Justice Department and my Attorney General immediately review the information that’s already there and to find out are there inquiries that need to be pursued. I can’t prejudge that because we don’t have access to all the material right now. I think that you are right, if crimes have been committed, they should be investigated. You’re also right that I would not want my first term consumed by what was perceived on the part of Republicans as a partisan witch hunt because I think we’ve got too many problems we’ve got to solve.

So this is an area where I would want to exercise judgment — I would want to find out directly from my Attorney General — having pursued, having looked at what’s out there right now — are there possibilities of genuine crimes as opposed to really bad policies. And I think it’s important– one of the things we’ve got to figure out in our political culture generally is distinguishing between really dumb policies and policies that rise to the level of criminal activity. You know, I often get questions about impeachment at town hall meetings and I’ve said that is not something I think would be fruitful to pursue because I think that impeachment is something that should be reserved for exceptional circumstances. Now, if I found out that there were high officials who knowingly, consciously broke existing laws, engaged in coverups of those crimes with knowledge forefront, then I think a basic principle of our Constitution is nobody above the law — and I think that’s roughly how I would look at it.

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4 Comments

  1. 1
    Mike Butcher says:

    Senator Obama seems to have a much more reasonable approach to this question than you do. While you state

    “When the Democrats took control of Congress there was hope that the Bush administration would be held accountable for its actions. ”

    Sen. Obama has not prejudged the situation and acknowledges the idea that the Bush Administration has acted lawfully in it’s general conduct has merit. That is not the apparent consensus that comes from the left. In fact the left seems to have generally convinced itself that the Bush Administration has been breaking laws left and right. You might should consider that while you disagree with their policies, they have pursued them with careful forethought to legal issues and are aggressively acting in accordance with the philosophy of a stronger Executive than some in both parties are willing to surrender too.

    This makes for good political give and take regarding the Constitutional powers, but does not constitute a “slam dunk” of illegality. Senator Obama seems to recognize this.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    “Senator Obama seems to have a much more reasonable approach to this question than you do”

    As we both have essentially the same position, it makes no sense to say that either of us have a more reasonable approach than the other.

    Both of us believe their should be investigations. This indicates a belief that laws may have been broken. For Obama to say he would have his Attorney General look into this indicates he also believes laws may have been broken. We both have the same position in believing this should be investigated.

  3. 3
    Mike Butcher says:

    Maybe it is only a matter of semantics, however, I believe that “holding someone accountable” implies guilt. That is a different matter than investigating because there is suspicion. The tenor of your article is one of lamenting the fact that “little will be done”, and again implies a foregone conclusion of a need for punishment.

    I have no problem with an investigation by the Justice Department and if credible evidence of criminal activity is found having charges being filed against any transgressors. I suspect, however, that the Bush Administration is not so cavalier about what it is doing, in regards to the law, that there will be prosecutable actions. The Bush Administration has been very aggressive in claiming powers of the Executive Branch that were relinquished during the Carter Administration. These are constitutional questions and the Bush Administration knows that. That makes prosecution problematic. You may not, but there are many on the left who will believe that the Bush Administration is “getting away with something” if indeed no charges are brought.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    Mike,

    I believe you are projecting your own views of what people on the left think in order to create a distinction between Obama’s views and my views on this matter. This post is to note that Obama supports such investigations, not whether anyone is guilty or any foregone conclusions. The phrase “little will be done” was written in a sentence about holding investigations.

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