Air America conducted a poll that asked a question raised by Time Magazine's Joe Klein: "Should Obama pardon George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and Dick Cheney?" The idea: a pardon would brand them for crimes without the agony of a trial.
Air American's aren't buying the Klein solution. They want the whole lot thrown in jail. No trial necessary! A whopping 90% of our 9000 respondents want to see Bush and Company pay for their crimes with either hard time in the pokey or hard time in the pokey after enhanced interrogation techniques. (Shocking!)
In an interview last year with Philadelphia Daily News reporter Will Bunch, Barack Obama said something that seemed to signal the presidential hopeful might prosecute George W. Bush and his staff for crimes committed during the eight-year death march also known as the 43rd presidency of the United States of America.
It was one of the many moments that whipped up my own private Obama fervor. But did he say what I thought he said? Not really.
"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."
That's as strong as it got. There was never any statement of positive intent regarding the prosecution of George W. Bush. Obama never ventured beyond the milquetoast, "We'll look into it." This is the equivalent of a disappointed soon-to-be ex-lover eliciting a "maybe" from a wholly disinterested wished for-former one. It's meaningless.
Last go around we had Bushisms, those zany journeys into the what-the-f-isms of linguistic barbarism. This time around we learn another language lesson among many to come in what seems to be an emerging mode of communication in the Obama camp. Call it Obama-speak. The defining characteristic is an NPR-like far-sightedness, and long form intelligence. Our president has the uncanny ability to perform advanced political calculus on the fly and express the results of those many wondrous equations in simple, if somewhat involved, communications.
A year ago people in the know saw a financial bump in the road. The mortgage crisis was apparent. And while no one in the mainstream media foresaw the immensity of the economic collapse that began last fall (lots of fringers make claims of clairvoyance), a clear-headed leader (yes, Obama) could at least see the clouds on the horizon and so we had the pleasure of listening to a man (Obama) who seemed to understand that over-promising anything at this juncture in history was ill-advised. It's one of the many reason's Obama prevailed in November. He had an appreciation of the profundity of our last error-prone (and possibly malfeasant) president, an idea of the mess that the Bush administration would be leaving behind, and a responsible vision for cleaning that very messy house.
So what do we get? We don't know yet, because unlike George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, our president doesn't moonlight as over-promiser in chief. Whether or not caution of the variety being exercised in Obama's White House will win the day is an open question, and will remain so for quite some time. It's a boon of the tortoise approach--we have to wait. A boon to Obama. That is one of the advantages of Obama-speak. It slows things down to a sane pace.
The issue we need to face now, more than anything else, is the economy. Can an investigation and a trial of Bush and his cronies help the economy? Perhaps in a small way. It would generate a few expert-class jobs inside the Beltway. Media companies would benefit because everyone would want to know the latest news. What else?
It's hard to say how to place a value on the national conscience, but that is the issue here. What's at stake is finally our democracy. We need to investigate the Bush years for possible crimes because too many of us fear the worst from an administration that never gained our trust. The divide between bad policy or criminal acts dressed up like official declarations and government contracts is clear. The air is not.
Joe Klein's question is valid, and clever to boot. There is enough to go on to green-light an investigation. Only criminals get hurt. We create a few taxable dollars by way of new jobs, and we set a whole array of fears to rest. (A recent USA Today/Gallup poll said more than 60% polled wanted their consciences eased regarding Bush-era crimes.) Indeed just looking at the Iraq quagmire with all its sweetheart contractors lining up at the Bush gravy train would make one wonder how there could be any hesitation. Pull a thread and the veil falls apart. It was always a see-through veil, etc...
Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont has a petition to show Obama that an investigation of possible crimes committed by the Bush administration is the will of the nation. You can sign it here.
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