Thursday, December 04, 2008


I see this in The New York Times today:

Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey said Wednesday that he saw no need for President Bush to issue blanket pardons of officials involved in some of the administration's most controversial counterterrorism policies....

This is presented as a denial that there could possibly be anything to prosecute when individuals have argued that torture is legal, or have engaged in torture -- although I would have thought that the Bushies, and the conservative movement, would want to trumpet the notion that, in their eyes, fine patriots are at risk of being persecuted, and pardons may be necessary to prevent this outrage.

It's not clear what Mukasey's statement means. Does it mean that Bush won't issue such preemptive pardons, or is it a trial balloon to see whether the right will be angrier at the idea of possible prosecutions (even if none are forthcoming) or at the possibility of pardons (as an admission of guilt)?

I wonder if it's cover. I wonder if Bush knows, perhaps from Obama himself, that there won't be any prosecutions, and therefore, secure in that knowledge, he's not going to issue pardons, but he needs to explain that decision in conservatively correct language. So Mukasey's out there saying it would be immoral (i.e., conservatively incorrect) to issue pardons.


As you know if you're a regular reader of this blog, I accept the fact that many Bushies who deserve to be prosecuted won't be by the Obama administration. I think Obama recognizes that any prosecutions would be framed, however wrongly, as "vindictiveness" and "criminalizing political differences," and would therefore be a tremendous political capital suck, and a likely excuse for genuine vindictiveness the next time Republicans gain enough power to bring down a Democratic administration. Obama knows that obtaining convictions would be difficult and convicting the real guilty parties would be next to impossible.

And yet I'm sorry if he's tipped his hand this way. I confess I half-want Bush to do the blanket-pardon thing, just so he'll go out mired in front-page controversy.

As it is, Bush is getting better press this week than, say, Eric Holder, who's been slammed by Richard Cohen in The Washington Post for enabling the Marc Rich pardon, and who's the subject of stories such as Politico's "Holder Pardon Makes Dems Squirm." By contrast, Bush's Charlie Gibson interview was soft-focused; the tone, on the part of both interviewer and interviewees (Laura Bush and daughter Barbara as well as the president), was Well, we've all been through a lot, haven't we? And now we can kick back before a warm fire and reminisce. Gah. And so the comeback tour begins. (Ready for Senator Jeb?)

If Obama isn't inclined to press torture cases, I understand; given the political realities, I don't believe anything particularly close to genuine justice is possible in these cases -- certainly not without significant costs (i.e., possibly Obama's entire agenda). But I'm sorry -- and concerned -- if an inclination toward reconciliation on Obama's part is hastening the day when George W. Bush is no longer seen as a morally repugnant pariah. I think America can live with unprosecuted war criminals -- see Kissinger, H. -- but it needs for their crimes to be widely known. It's up to journalists and historians to ensure that George W. Bush's vindication day never comes.

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