Getting At The Truth, Regardless of Party

There’s been considerable question lately as to how much Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats knew about waterboarding. ABC uncritically repeated claims that she was informed while others such as Greg Sargent have shown that this is not entirely clear. The CIA has conceded that the documents cited might not be accurate, while my Congressman, Pete Hoekstra, claims to have the goods on Pelosi. (Hoekstra might or might not be right on this one, but as far as I’m concerned Hoekstra’s credibility has been zilch since he tried to pass off bogus claims of finding WMD in Ira)q.  Marc Ambinder has further background on this controversy.

Many conservative bloggers have once again turned a search for truth into a partisan battle, misrepresenting the situation as Democrats and their supporters being more concerned with covering their asses. The Republicans are holding a pretty weak hand when their defense to committing war crimes comes down to claims that some Democratic leaders also knew about their crimes.

Meanwhile many liberal bloggers are taking a more reality-based approach, as has been the case throughout the post 9/11 era. Liberal bloggers such as Josh Marshall have no qualms about questioning whether Democratic leaders knew what was going on.

While we do not know all the specifics yet, it looks pretty clear that 1) the Bush years were ones of wanton criminality in the highest levels of government and 2) the Democrats did not do enough as an opposition party to try to oppose their actions. Beyond this it is far from clear as to how much Pelosi or other Democrats knew about specifics such as waterboarding. Any investigations should address failings on the parts of members of both political parties.

Congress should certainly investigate what occurred as this is one of its functions, but the questions raised about Pelosi do show that we might not be able to count on Congress to investigate fully. Any investigation as to what went wrong in these dark years of our history should include why our two-party system failed us at a  time when we needed an opposition party to do whatever was possible to block and expose criminal acts.

Besides any investigations initiated by Congress, a special prosecutor should be appointed to investigate crimes committed by the Bush administration. As many of the problems, including possible inaction by the Democratic leaders, might be worthy of  exposure but do not constitute criminal acts, perhaps some sort of independent truth commission is also needed. As occurred during the Watergate era, it is also possible that some of the truth might come out from investigative journalists. Unfortunately journalism today is weaker and we do not have the smoking gun of incriminating tapes in the White House. It is possible that some former members of the Bush administration will talk and act as a modern day Deep Throats.

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2 Comments

  1. 1
    Christopher Skyi says:

    I agree with basically all of this, but you’re really proposing treating a symptom here, rather than going after a root cause.

    And the root cause is that we Americans have allowed, if not promoted, expanded presidential power over recent decades — arguably a VAST expansion of executive power.  We’re now used to  expecting solutions for all national problems which is clearly well beyond the powers enumerated in the constitution.

    In short, we’ve created mini-Kings, and is it any wonder some of them act like it? And should it be a surprise that congress is simultaneously enthralled and envious of such power, so sometime they close eyes their eyes, sometimes they roll over,  and sometimes they get run over?

    I’m bringing to bare a broad thesis to explain this one incident, but I think it’s a productive line of thought.

    Gene Healy has written a sobering book: The Cult of the Presidency, Updated: America’s Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power

    You can catch him talking about his book and this thesis at a symposium on C-Span, part 1 and part 2.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    This particular post is about a symptom, but I have also written about the underlying problem of the expansion of presidential power many times.

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