Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I nearly lost it today. I nearly said my farewells to the entire left blogosphere -- writing for it, reading it, taking it seriously in any way. For a second I just didn't think I could get past a comment to this post about the Lieberman situation, and Barack Obama's involvement in the decision to spare Lieberman real punishment:

Its not as if Obama didn't tell America what he was going to do and this is the first of many steps down a path which may not be as steep as the one Bush led the country down, is headed in the same direction.

Bloody hell.

Then I read Spencer Ackerman's post about Eric Holder, Obama's apparent choice for attorney general, and I felt pretty damn good about the pick:

...Googling around, I see he's sounded many progressive notes about terrorism-related issues. Check out this speech to the American Constitution Society, the liberal answer to the Federalist Society, in June, back when he was helping helm Obama's vice-presidential search committee. Mark Halperin put up an ACS press release giving the highlights:

"Our needlessly abusive and unlawful practices in the 'War on Terror' have diminished our standing in the world community and made us less, rather than more, safe," Holder told a packed room at the ACS 2008 Convention on Friday evening. "For the sake of our safety and security, and because it is the right thing to do, the next president must move immediately to reclaim America's standing in the world as a nation that cherishes and protects individual freedom and basic human rights....

"... I firmly believe that there is evil in the world, and that we still face grave dangers to our security. But our ability to lead the world in combatting these dangers depends not only on the strength of our military leadership but our moral leadership as well.... To recapture it, we can no longer allow ourselves to be ruled by fear. We must evaluate our policies and our practices in the harsh light of day and steel ourselves to face the world’s dangers in accord with the rule of law."

Sounds like a progressive!

Yes! This is not the Bush "path," dammit!

But then Ackerman adds:

But does that evaluate-our-policies-in-the-harsh-light-of-day stuff mean an investigation into the Bush administration's still-secret abuses? That would be an early progressive test for Holder should he become attorney general.

But what if that's a "test" Holder doesn't pass -- even as the Obama administration dramatically reverses the Bush administration's abuses of the rule of law? What if the policies of the future are admirable, but there's no real attempt to punish anyone for the past?

Do we have to regard that as an utter failure?

I won't. What I want is for the policies to change. If that's what we get, I reserve the right to be pleased.

And I think that is what we're going to get. The Lieberman situation -- along with everything else I've seen of Obama -- tells me that that's the way Obama prefers to approach matters. He wants to avoid the appearance of vengeance, even if what's construed as vengeance by some would seem to others (us) like simple justice -- and yet his desire to give past offenses a pass is in no way related to his desire to reverse the policies connected to those offenses.

Can the commenter I quoted above, and all who agree with him, at least try to conceive of the possibility that Obama separates past and future, so that what we see as a progressive approach to the past is not what we get from him, while his approach to the future is much more to our liking? Can you all possibly grasp that he doesn't see punishment and progress as inextricably linked? And that his failure to see them as linked doesn't in any way mean he's going to betray us in everything?

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