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The End of Law in America
(Paul Krugman, The New York Times, January 15, 2009)
Last Sunday President-elect Barack Obama was asked whether he would seek an investigation of possible crimes by the Bush administration. "I don't believe that anybody is above the law," he responded, but "we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards." . . . I'm sorry, but if we don't have an inquest into what happened during the Bush years - and nearly everyone has taken Mr. Obama's remarks to mean that we won't - this means that those who hold power are indeed above the law because they don't face any consequences if they abuse their power. . . . Let's be clear what we're talking about here. It's not just torture and illegal wiretapping, whose perpetrators claim, however implausibly, that they were patriots acting to defend the nation's security. The fact is that the Bush administration's abuses extended from environmental policy to voting rights. And most of the abuses involved using the power of government to reward political friends and punish political enemies. . . . Speaking of Iraq, let's also not forget that country's failed reconstruction: the Bush administration handed billions of dollars in no-bid contracts to politically connected companies, companies that then failed to deliver. And why should they have bothered to do their jobs? Any government official who tried to enforce accountability on, say, Halliburton quickly found his or her career derailed.
There's much, much more. By my count, at least six important government agencies experienced major scandals over the past eight years - in most cases, scandals that were never properly investigated. And then there was the biggest scandal of all: Does anyone seriously doubt that the Bush administration deliberately misled the nation into invading Iraq? . . . Why, then, shouldn’t we have an official inquiry into abuses during the Bush years? . . . One answer you hear is that pursuing the truth would be divisive, that it would exacerbate partisanship. But if partisanship is so terrible, shouldn't there be some penalty for the Bush administration's politicization of every aspect of government? . . . Alternatively, we're told that we don't have to dwell on past abuses, because we won’t repeat them. But no important figure in the Bush administration, or among that administration's political allies, has expressed remorse for breaking the law. What makes anyone think that they or their political heirs won't do it all over again, given the chance? . . . Meanwhile, about Mr. Obama: while it's probably in his short-term political interests to forgive and forget, next week he's going to swear to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." That's not a conditional oath to be honored only when it's convenient. . . . And to protect and defend the Constitution, a president must do more than obey the Constitution himself; he must hold those who violate the Constitution accountable. So Mr. Obama should reconsider his apparent decision to let the previous administration get away with crime. Consequences aside, that's not a decision he has the right to make.
[COMMENT by Lorenzo: Of course, young Mr. Obama may actually want to continue the practices of the Bush regime. He has all this new power now. Why should he prosecute Bush for giving it to him?]
posted by Lorenzo 11:48 AM