Saturday, November 6, 2010
The Pitfalls of Only Looking Forward
stated that it was out of concern for the "immediate future of this great country." He should have considered the longer term. We may have been spared short-term trauma, but Ford's pardon guaranteed that future high government officials would feel unconstrained by the checks and balances of the other branches of government. Next came Iran-Contra. While the Republicans stacked the joint legislative committee undertaking the investigation with the conservative wing of their party (e.g., then-Representative Cheney), the Democrats relied mostly on moderates, and thus the committee members were skewed toward those who were disinclined to probe very vigorously. By rashly granting immunity to key witnesses such as Ollie North, the committee undermined prosecutions by an independent counsel. The Iran-Contra Affair culminated in the pardon by first President Bush of several participants who had been implicated. The lesson that the president and his circle had nothing to fear from overriding the will of Congress was reaffirmed. President Obama refused to seek any investigation of his predecessor's "War on Terror," despite substantial evidence that wiretapping laws were broken and torture was authorized at the highest levels. Much like President Ford, Obama claimed that “nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.” Thus, once again a clear signal was provided to future presidents that there would be no consequences for abuse of power. Also, efforts to establish that our current foreign policy messes, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan, are due primarily to the malfeasance of the prior administration have been hampered. And finally, without a definitive accounting, much less prosecution, Obama has given members of the Bush Administration the ability to rewrite history and rehabilitate George W. Bush. This coming week Bush's memoirs, Decision Points, will go on sale. And so it begins.