Thursday, February 12, 2009


As regular readers of this blog know, I've said for a while that Barack Obama was probably right about the likely problems associated with pursuing criminal charges against Bush administration officials involved in torture and warrantless wiretapping -- the total partisan war that would almost certainly ensue was likely to cost Obama and the Democrats too much, and prosecution efforts would probably not result in convictions of the people who really deserve to be convicted.

But I'm starting to think, well, screw it. I was worried about a quid pro quo? It's clear now that Republicans are going to offer nothing but quos whether or not Obama offers any quids at all. There's absolutely nothing Obama can do -- short of resigning along with Joe Biden, after designating Sarah Palin as his replacement VP -- that can possibly diminish the partisan assault by Republicans, which will be total and unrelenting no matter what he does. And there's very little to be gained from seeming non-partisan -- yes, the public (according to polls) appreciates it, but that's counterbalanced by the Beltway media's declarations that GOP hissyfits prove the Republicans are "back" and Obama is weak.

The new Gallup/USA Today poll on this subject suggests that there's support for some response -- a probe of the allegations if not pursuit of criminal charges -- but, frustratingly, the poll surveys three possible responses rather than two, fails to find majority support for any of them, and thus leaves open the question of whether, asked to choose between a criminal probe or nothing, the public would accept or reject the criminal probe:

(Interestingly, investigating a third area of Bush abuse, the politicization of the Justice Department gets the most support, though not by much.)

Of course, I'm rethinking my objections to a criminal probe at the exact moment when Obama is proving that he can't even win overwhelming public support for an economic recovery program that's done in the spirit of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a president so popular we put him on money. If you can't rally the populace with an "FDR II" message, maybe you can't sell "Bush sucks" either. But hell, he's going to get slammed anyway, so I'm not sure he has anything to lose.

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