On Jan. 18, two days before Obama’s inauguration, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed support for House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers’s plan to create a blue-ribbon panel of outside experts to probe the “broad range” of policies pursued by the Bush administration “under claims of unreviewable war powers.”
Conyers urged the Attorney General to “appoint a Special Counsel or expand the scope of the present investigation into CIA tape destruction to determine whether there were criminal violations committed pursuant to Bush administration policies that were undertaken under unreviewable war powers, including enhanced interrogation, extraordinary rendition, and warrantless domestic surveillance.”
I'm of two minds here. Part of me thinks that anyone who breaks the law, whether it's a shoplifting teenager or a dishonest president, should have to face the music. Not to mention the fact that the chief executive desperately needs to be reigned in after decades of an expanding "imperial presidency."
But another part of me thinks this is potentially a very bad strategy. Yes, the Bush Administration allowed some pretty nasty stuff to happen, but then again that's not exactly a secret. Aside from the immediate verdict--an electoral smackdown and a decimated party--history will be their judge & jury. I personally did not vote to prolong the Bush era through prolonged investigations and trials; instead I was hoping to turn the page on the last eight years and move forward.
These investigations may provide some valuable insight about presidential abuses, but at what cost? Republicans will portray them as partisan games, totally out of step with campaign rhetoric about bipartisanship, at a time when our country faces tremendous challenges. If nothing gets done to improve our national situation, that could become a winning argument in 2010 or beyond.
Gerald Ford took enormous amounts of flak for pardoning Richard Nixon, and it probably cost him a second term. But years later, after the passion of the moment has settled, many see that as one of Ford's greatest moments--he spared the country a long, drawn-out prosecution of a United States president and gave us a chance to move forward. This may be a time when we can learn from the other side.