Monday, October 26, 2009

If the Obama administration is determined to take ownership of Bush policies, it might as well take over the Bush cover-ups too


Okay, we know where the Party of No stands. But is there
a Party of Yes? If so, any idea what it stands for?

by Ken

However dark some of our forebodings may become about the reach if not the goals of the Obama administration, there is always supposed to be the consolation that the president isn't, you know, that other guy, the one who squatted in the White House those eight horrible years. Intellectually, I know this is true, and every now and then we get a confirming proof that yes indeed, things have changed.

But so often we survey the landscape and damn if we don't see an alarming array of the same danged policies in place, often even being implemented by the same damned people, still on the job. We did have an election last year, didn't we?

In one way I envy the teabaggers and the architects of the Republican "Just Say No" Plan. They're all sure they know where the president stands, and they're by God against it. Of course they don't really know what the president believes. Heck, they barely know what they themselves believe, which is why they have to depend on "talking points" to get their beliefs right. But at least they're spared the agony of actually listening and probing, trying to figure it out. Me, I'm just about ready to throw in the towel. At this point I have less idea than I ever did what the guy actually believes in and what he actually wants to do as president.

I know a lot of people who are deep down as confused as I am keep throwing up at President Obama things that candidate Barack Obama said at some point or other during the long, long, long presidential campaign season. (Did I mention how long it was?) This is grasping at straws, really. Do you remember how I kept telling you during that long campaign season that I wasn't really keeping all that up on what the various candidates were saying? And trying to explain that I know from a lifetime of president-watching that only a tiny percentage of what a candidate says has anything to do with what that person will actually do, or even try to do, once installed in the White House. And I've never found any way of sifting out the nuggets from the dross. What was said in the campaign just because one of the consultants thought some voting block might enjoy hearing it? What might the candidate have actually meant, all the way up to the point where he finds out that, for whatever reason, it's undoable?

I've pretty well given up on the theory I developed in the early months of the administration, more out of my need for hope than anything, that the new president had been really serious about that "consensus" business, and the need for "bipartisanship"? I could still sustain this at the dimmest level of hope, because it was possible to imagine that he really wanted to change the kind of discourse and debate we have now in this country on seemingly ever subject: all shouting, all the time. And since you don't change the culture of shouting overnight, it's understandable that if you really believe in civilizing the discourse, you can't give in so easily, because that means the shouters win. That does kind of make sense, doesn't it?

Except look who he was planning to engage in civilized discourse with! Hadn't Digby already explained that Republicans' conception of "bipartisanship" is basically date rape?

That explanation just doesn't seem to hold, though. It doesn't explain, for example, why the president seems always to listen intently to people who wish him only harm, and dream of destroying his presidency, and appears always eager to find common ground with them, while paying barely more than lip service to all the people who gravitated to his campaign because of his promise of "change you can believe in." It often seems as if the administration goes out of its way to antagonize us on the left, on the theory that this will yield political gains in the muddle-headed middle.

Meanwhile, one by one, President Obama has taken ownership of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, of the butchered economy, of the need for high levels of extreme executive secrecy, on . . . well, you know the whole litany of issues, probably better than I do. What's creepy now is to find the administration taking ownership, not just of its hated predecessors' policies, but of its
massive network of cover-ups
. By the end, they amounted to most of what the Bush regime was engaged in, cover-ups.

It seems to me that the NYT hit this exactly right in this editorial this morning:

The New York Times

October 26, 2009

The Cover-Up Continues

The Obama administration has clung for so long to the Bush administration’s expansive claims of national security and executive power that it is in danger of turning President George W. Bush’s cover-up of abuses committed in the name of fighting terrorism into President Barack Obama’s cover-up.

We have had recent reminders of this dismaying retreat from Mr. Obama’s passionate campaign promises to make a break with Mr. Bush’s abuses of power, a shift that denies justice to the victims of wayward government policies and shields officials from accountability.

In Britain earlier this month, a two-judge High Court panel rejected arguments made first by the Bush team and now by the Obama team and decided to make public seven redacted paragraphs in American intelligence documents relating to torture allegations by a former prisoner at Guantánamo Bay. The prisoner, Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian-born British national, says he was tortured in Pakistan, Morocco and at a C.I.A.-run prison outside Kabul before being transferred to Guantánamo. He was freed in February.

To block the release of those paragraphs, the Bush administration threatened to cut its intelligence-sharing with Britain, an inappropriate threat that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton repeated. But the court concluded that the actual risk of harm to intelligence-sharing was minimal, given the close relationship between the two countries. The court also found a “compelling public interest” in disclosure, and said that nothing in the disputed seven paragraphs — a summary of evidence relating to the involvement of the British security services in Mr. Mohamed’s ordeal — had anything to do with “secret intelligence.”

The Obama administration has expressed unhappiness with the ruling, and the British government plans to appeal. But the court was clearly right in recognizing the importance of disclosure “for reasons of democratic accountability and the rule of law.”

In the United States, the Obama administration is in the process of appealing a sound federal appellate court ruling last April in a civil lawsuit by Mr. Mohamed and four others. All were victims of the government’s extraordinary rendition program, under which foreigners were kidnapped and flown to other countries for interrogation and torture.

In that case, the Obama administration has repeated a disreputable Bush-era argument that the executive branch is entitled to have lawsuits shut down whenever it makes a blanket claim of national security. The ruling rejected that argument and noted that the government’s theory would “effectively cordon off all secret actions from judicial scrutiny, immunizing the C.I.A. and its partners from the demands and limits of the law.”

The Obama administration has aggressively pursued such immunity in numerous other cases beyond the ones involving Mr. Mohamed. We do not take seriously the government’s claim that it is trying to protect intelligence or avoid harm to national security.

Victims of the Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogation techniques,” including Mr. Mohamed, have already spoken in harrowing detail about their mistreatment. The objective is to avoid official confirmation of wrongdoing that might be used in lawsuits against government officials and contractors, and might help create a public clamor for prosecuting those responsible. President Obama calls that a distracting exercise in “looking back.” What it really is justice.

In a similar vein, Mr. Obama did a flip-flop last May and decided to resist orders by two federal courts to release photographs of soldiers abusing prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq. Last week, just in time to avoid possible Supreme Court review of the matter, Congress created an exception to the Freedom of Information Act that gave Secretary of Defense Robert Gates authority to withhold the photos.

We share concerns about inflaming anti-American feelings and jeopardizing soldiers, but the best way to truly avoid that is to demonstrate that this nation has turned the page on Mr. Bush’s shameful policies. Withholding the painful truth shows the opposite.

Like the insistence on overly broad claims of secrecy, it also avoids an important step toward accountability, which is the only way to ensure that the abuses of the Bush years are never repeated. We urge Mr. Gates to use his discretion under the new law to release the photos, sparing Americans more cover-up.


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At 7:01 AM, Anonymous Lee said...


I use the enneagram to explain our Presidents behavior. The enneagram is a set of 9 distinct personality types.Everyone emerges from childhood with one dominant type based on the tempement we are born with and other pre-natal factors.This inborn orientation largely determines the ways in which we learn to adapt to our early childhood environment.

I'm a point 9..We are the peace keepers. I believe our President to be a 3 who becomes a 9 under stress. Type Three is adaptive, excelling, driven, and image-conscious. But a 9 has a compulsive need to please and avoid stress and tension.

Enneagrams are not only useful in explaining our behavior, but a tool in changing our responses to behavior. Been really helpful for me ( that and therapy)

in response to your questions about BO?
Helps me understand why he keeps banging his head with being bi partisan and trying to see all sides.

At 3:29 PM, Blogger KenInNY said...

Interesting, Lee. Certainly better than anything I've come up with on the subject!



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