Friday, April 24, 2009

Torture retribution can wait

I know Ann won't be happy but I fully support President Obama's position resisting a Congressional investigation of the Bush era torture policies.
Mr. Obama said a special inquiry would steal time and energy from his policy agenda, and could mushroom into a wider distraction looking back at the Bush years...

That is exactly right. I know that President Obama can walk and chew gum at the same time, but the problem is that the rest of the country can't. And to accomplish the gargantuan task of repairing the damage to our economy from the gross negligence and mismanagement of the Bush years will require the full support and attention of the country.
Paul Krugman argues today that we must procede with a full-scale investigation now in order to "reclaim America's soul."
Now, I love Krugman and I generally agree with him on most things. But this is a case where we can see the divide between liberal idealism (Krugman) and liberal pragmatism (Obama).
Krugman says that
America is more than a collection of policies. We are, or at least we used to be, a nation of moral ideals. In the past, our government has sometimes done an imperfect job of upholding those ideals. But never before have our leaders so utterly betrayed everything our nation stands for.

Well, that's a nice sentiment and all, but the reality is that we are NOT "a nation of moral ideals," we are a nation of people all with our own flaws and shortcomings and all more intent on taking care of our day-to-day needs than worrying about upholding moral ideals. I can tell you right now that if I lose my job and am forced to give up the house where I intend to raise my children, I'm not going to give a damn whether Dick Cheney and his cronies spend any time in jail or not.
I think Obama understands this. He does not want his agenda to get bogged down in a long slog through the past sins of the Bush administration. That doesn't mean that we just forget about it and push it all under the rug, but this is not the time to be pushing all of this stuff up to the front burner.
The USS Titanic just hit an iceberg and it's time to have all hands on deck and find some way to salvage the situation. It's not time to start a tribunal to prosecute the guys who ran us into the iceberg.
Sen. Harry Reid is right that we should just let the process play itself out for now and not rush things.
The Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and other top Senate Democrats endorsed Mr. Obama’s view on Thursday, telling reporters at a news conference at the Capitol that they preferred to wait for the results of an investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee expected late this year...

Just remember that the people who ran this torture regime are now out of power. And the best thing we can do now is to make sure that they stay out of power for the indefinite future. The way to do that is to demonstrate to the American people that the current administration's policies will work to pull us out of this mess. Otherwise, I'm afraid that a slim majority of people could be persuaded to put them back into office again and then before you know it we will be back where we started.

I agree that we need to regain America's soul, but we don't do that through retribution. We do it by pursuing the right course and demonstrating once again that it is the best path.

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