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Anything Less Than Absolute Moral Clarity from Democrats Will Enshrine Bush's Abuses

06/14/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Over the past four months there have been a series of flare-ups between the Obama administration and the progressive activist community, centered mainly around the new administration's willingness (or lack thereof) to reverse Bush-Cheney's radical excesses in the realm of civil liberties, secrecy, detainee treatment, interrogation, and counter-terrorism.

Ever astute and incisive, Digby raises what I think is the critical point in this entire debate:

The argument against torture is slipping away from us. In fact, I'm getting the sinking feeling that it's over. What was once taboo is now publicly acknowledged as completely acceptable by many people. Indeed, disapproval of torture is now being characterized as a strictly partisan issue, like welfare reform or taxes.

Ari Melber, my former Kerry campaign colleague, takes a parallel tack, arguing that there should be no debate here; torture is illegal. Even Bush acknowledged that.

Glenn Greenwald, an indispensible voice on this topic, says bluntly:

Ever since he was inaugurated, Obama has taken one extreme step after the next to keep concealed both the details and the evidence of Bush's crimes, including rendition, torture and warrantless eavesdropping.

As has been the case for years, Democratic leaders, operating within the Washington bubble, misconstrue the concerns of the netroots and often privately dismiss them as the rantings of immature outsiders and political neophytes.

But as always, the progressive community, a far more efficient thinking machine than a handful of strategists and advisers, is looking ahead and raising a unified alarm. The message is this: anything less than absolute moral clarity from Democrats, who now control the levers of power, will enshrine Bush's abuses and undermine the rule of law for generations to come.

Setting aside all the campaign slogans about hope and change, what Obama really signifies is a razor sharp break from Bush, Cheney, Yoo, Rice, Rumsfeld, Addington, Libby, Bybee et al. After eight years of damage to the fabric of our Constitution and our nation, the entire point of a new face, a smart, youthful, inspiring Democratic president is to completely and totally reject the Bush years, to reject the lawless behavior, the Orwellian rationales, the blatant disregard of the Constitution.

Neglecting to do so, and leaving any doubt about where Democrats stand on these issues, is profoundly detrimental to the country.

Back to Digby:

We are in big trouble when torture becomes just another political football. It's the kind of thing that turns powerful empires into pariah nations.

Exactly. The underlying issue here is not these intermittent battles between the new administration and the progressive community (fodder for the media and conservatives) but whether the White House and Democratic leaders comprehend the repercussions of allowing DC's complex internal pressures and maneuverings -- which are largely invisible to outsiders -- to obfuscate the Bush administration's excesses.

Failing to make a clean break from the Bush years will deprive America of the one thing it needs most: an affirmation of the rule of law and the consequent reclaiming of moral authority.