In an interview last night, Senator Barack Obama was asked whether his administration would "seek to prosecute officials of a former Bush administration on the revelations that they greenlighted torture, or for other potential crimes that took place in the White House."
Apparently, Obama was asked this question as a result of the recent report by ABC News that major players in the Bush administration, including Beast Cheney, Condi Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, and John Ashcroft, held meetings to discuss the specific torture techniques American operatives would use on terrorism suspects.
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.
Well, it is wordy and not as direct as I would like, but this is something that I've been waiting to hear from a candidate for a long time. My heart lifts when I consider the possibility (however faint) that Junior and the Beast and ridiculous Condi Rice and toady Al Gonzales and the myriad other bad actors in the Bush administration may actually someday be made to answer for their crimes.
Obama is soft-peddling it, to be sure. His campaign has decided that his road to the White House involves promoting a message of hope through unity and mending fences. But, at least, he's acknowledging the sentiment. That's more than you'll hear from nasty Hillary Clinton or befuddled John McCain, both of whom were at least partially complicit in the excesses of the Bush administration.
Certainly, the United States does need to unite its people (after having been divided so cynically by the Karl Rove method of politics) in order to successfully deal with the huge problems at hand. But in order to effectively address the current and pending crises, we will be required to honestly assess how we have come to this pass....and that will mean accountability. Bad news for Junior.
Of course, spineless Nancy Pelosi has taught us that tough talk from Democrats is not to be taken too seriously. But Obama is outside the established, traditional Democratic power structure, at least to a degree. If Obama gets the nomination, it will mean the demise of the (Bill) Clinton faction of triangulators that have sought to appease the neo-conservatives. And a sweeping victory in the general election might finally whip Congressional Democrats into shape.
So, getting way ahead of ourselves here, if we imagine that Obama has a huge victory in November and becomes our next president, perhaps the most important Cabinet post he will have to fill will be the Attorney General spot.
Patrick Fitzgerald would be my suggestion.