Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Let me be the first to inform everyone that if Barack Obama is elected president, there are not going to be any big war-crimes trials for high-powered officials. Please, people -- this is a guy who was more than willing to infuriate lefties a year ago, when his campaign was barely under way, by saying he was flat-out opposed to impeachment. Whatever you thought of this opposition, it was, after all, consistent with his view of what's wrong with contemporary politics:

...Obama said he would not back such a move, although he has been distressed by the "loose ethical standards, the secrecy and incompetence" of a "variety of characters" in the administration.

..."I believe if we began impeachment proceedings we will be engulfed in more of the politics that has made Washington dysfunction," he added. "We would once again, rather than attending to the people's business, be engaged in a tit-for-tat, back-and-forth, non-stop circus." ...

Well, now righties are unloading opposition-research nuggets they've been saving up during the nomination fight, and one of them is EEEK! EEEK! WAR-CRIMES TRIALS ARE COMING! The closest thing they've got to solid evidence is a statement Obama made in an April interview with Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News -- but it's obvious here that Obama, while not categorically ruling out a well-chosen case based on clear and convincing evidence, is still looking to avoid tit-for-tat:

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 betyween 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.

That's what he's saying. He seems to be thinking about those who were upset at his impeachment statement and hoping to let them down easy, but he's also saying, "Don't get your hopes up for a big payback."

However, right-wingers, practicing their usual truth creep -- i.e., a game of Telephone in which you deliberately tweak the truth as it passes from person to person until it says what you want it to say -- have warped Obama's statement so it comes out as, for instance,

Obama administration to prosecute U.S. troops for war crimes

Yup -- they read a statement about the possible prosecution of "high officials who knowingly, consciously broke existing laws, engaged in coverups of those crimes with knowledge forefront" -- and it comes out as "Obama wants to try the troops." And that's the message they really want to spread -- that Obama's going to prosecute nineteen-year-olds who are just trying to do their duty -- even though such an approach is totally antithetical to his political philosophy.

The one remaining shred of evidence of this horrifying upcoming star chamber/drumhead tribunal/whatever is that most reliable of documents, a Web-based campaign flyer from last October that, according to the ever-reliable Little Green Footballs, was left accessible in a (now closed) open directory and is thus scary and secret and yet not really secret and thus kinda like some document left at a terrorists' hideout after the evildoers have fled, or something like that. Step 4 is the fiend's sinister plan for jackbooted thuggery:

Was that ever even posted? Was it any more than a rough draft? That's what the wingnuts are taking as gospel?

Look, I would have enjoyed seeing a couple of impeachments right off the bat in the new Congress -- though I'm mindful of the fact that these things generate a massive desire for vengeance exercised for its own sake (see: Clinton, Bill). It's also clear that there'd never have been the votes to convict, much less convict both Bush and Cheney, so the only real result of an impeachment would have been to make clear to the nation, in detail, what a disastrous course we were set on. As it turns out, the public absolutely gets that now, without an impeachment.

I see that Dennis Kucinich has just presented articles of impeachment against Bush. Thanks, Dennis, but, er, y'know, there are only eight months to go. What's the point? It's like calling somebody up three days after a party insult and uttering the comeback that would have been snappy and devastating if it had been said immediately. Forget it. Bush got through his term, and Cheney too. Leave them to history, which won't be kind.

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