The Fight for Accountability

>> Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Last night in the midst of the celebration Meteor Blades posted a diary that touched on an essential subject. Accountability of those who have placed us in this horrible mess. As President Obama takes office it is a lingering question whether or not he will follow through on promises to close guantanamo and to hold the people who screwed everything up accountable. Will Obama do as Ford did and throw accountability under the bus or will he affirm in no uncertain terms that no one is above the law? If it comes down to holding Bush Administration people responsible versus passing health care of major infrastructure reform we know that Bush and Co is going to get a pass.

A quote from Meteor Blades outlining perfectly the point of view and worry over holding those Bush Admin people responsible.

Barack Obama's promises of a broad bipartisan focus on solving our country's problems may prove as wise as the similar message of the Civil War president whose words echoed in the Grant Park speech. But that healing cannot occur, not wholly, unless the crimes that have brought our nation to such a ruinous condition - morally, economically and politically - are investigated thoroughly and a proper penalty imposed. Most importantly, the bent machinery that allowed, nay encouraged, those crimes must be rebuilt with safeguards so that they never occur again. That's not vengeance. It's justice. And true healing and progress cannot come about without it.

You can put me down in the column that needs to see some heads on this one. I truly believe that it is essential that we augment the the laws pertaining to governing our nation with the proof of punishment. We must demonstrate credibility on this issue or else the precedent set is one of excused criminality. What stops a future power abuser and criminal if they know that after they finish raping the country that they will be forgiven in the "best interests of the country to move on"?

Nothing epitomizes this more than the need to hold some people responsible for Guantanamo Bay Prison and the abuses that occur there. The story of that place will be a black mark on America's record akin to the internment of the Japanese during WWII. This is not to say that all the people there are innocent. However there are plenty of people who are, some even acknowledged by the government itself. Gitmo stands as a testament to abuses of human rights and due process. For our country to claim any moral authority we need to do more than simply elect an African American we need to clean up the mess.

Here is Obama on the topic of holding Bushies responsible,

Q: I mentioned the report in my question, and said "I know you've talked about reconciliation and moving on, but there's also the issue of justice, and a lot of people -- certainly around the world and certainly within this country -- feel that crimes were possibly committed" regarding torture, rendition, and illegal wiretapping. I wanted to know how whether his Justice Department "would aggressively go after and investigate whether crimes have been committed."

A: 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 between 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 cover ups 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.

The answer is a mixed bag. There are some good things like supporting the concept that nobody is above the law. There are also some iffy parts like making the distinction between bad policy and breaking the law. That seems like a very broad net that will let unethical activities off the hook. For instance would Palin's pressuring of Monegan satisfy the Obama standard? I doubt it. A great deal is of the worst excesses and abuses are going to fall under bad policy as opposed to criminal malfeasance. However, people who screwed up their job, and by extension the country, so completely should not be let off the hook. The people need to be identified at the very least so that they may be subjected to a minimum of public shaming.

You can tell from his acceptance speech that Obama is going to be highly focused on building a true bi partisan administration. He is genuinely concerned about undermining this by going after bushies. I can just see where this is going to lead. Obama is a pragmatic man and when it comes down to passing the big legislation versus holding some people criminally liable, legislation wins. I think you can certainly balance the two but i dont know if Obama is willing to take that risk.

I dont want to dampen the excitement over an Obama election. It truly is a great step forward for our country; but like Obama said, his election is not the change but merely the first step on a long road to change. We may have won this election but the next 2-4 years will be very important in determining whether we can create a long lasting progressive government or whether we let the gop back in the door. This first step is to cleanse the blight of the last eight years. Hold the those people who decimated the government responsible otherwise we let a malignant cyst fester. A part of the Obama election must be read as a mandate to hold people accountable. So lets hold both Bush, for his past abuses, and Obama, in his future activities, accountable because no one is above the law.


O-le,O-le, O-le, O-le! O-le, O-le!

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