Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere
President-elect Barack Obama signaled in an interview broadcast Sunday that he was unlikely to authorize a broad inquiry into Bush administration programs like domestic eavesdropping or the treatment of terrorism suspects.
As a candidate, Mr. Obama broadly condemned some counterterrorism tactics of the Bush administration and its claim that the measures were justified under executive powers. But his administration will face competing demands: pressure from liberals who want wide-ranging criminal investigations, and the need to establish trust among the country’s intelligence agencies. At the Central Intelligence Agency, in particular, many officers flatly oppose any further review and may protest the prospect of a broad inquiry into their past conduct.
In the clearest indication so far of his thinking on the issue, Mr. Obama said . . . that there should be prosecutions if "somebody has blatantly broken the law" but that his legal team was still evaluating interrogation and detention issues and would examine "past practices."
Mr. Obama added that he also had "a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards."
Instead of looking closely at what high-level officeholders in the Bush administration have done over the past eight years, and recognizing what we have tacitly permitted, we would rather turn our faces forward toward a better future, promising that 2009 and the inauguration of Barack Obama will mean ringing out Guantánamo Bay and ringing in due process; it will bring the end of waterboarding and the reinstatement of the Geneva Conventions.
Indeed, the almost universal response to the recent bipartisan report issued by the Senate Armed Services Committee -- finding former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld and other high-ranking officials directly responsible for detainee abuse that clearly rose to the level of torture -- has been a collective agreement that no one need be punished so long as we solemnly vow that such atrocities never happen again.
This hope that the election represents some kind of legal self-cleansing, a constitutional "rebooting" of the rule of law, is of course not the language of the law. It is the language of recovery, of religion, of political pragmatism.
[Leon] Panetta may soon find out more than the rest of us will ever know about the CIA’s activities in the Bush-Cheney years. And nobody doubts he is a centrist and patriot who genuinely wants to ensure the safety of Americans and has no intention of doing anything but bring the best out of a demoralised espionage service. He may make difficult moral decisions in the years ahead and may fail in a difficult job. But what he has that is indispensable right now is an understanding that humane and decent treatment of all prisoners in war-time is critical to winning the intelligence war and winning it the right way.
Somewhere between Bush’s historic triumph in November 2004 (when he became the first president since 1988 to be elected by a popular-vote majority) and November 2006, the wheels fell off the Permanent Republican Majority. Suddenly, as if awakened from fairy-tale slumbers, conservative intellectuals began to regret that George W. Bush was not one of them.
Think about it. Peggy Noonan, Christopher Buckley, David Frum -- what is the thread that connects them? All worked as speechwriters: Noonan for Reagan, Buckley for Bush 41, Frum for Bush 43. While these Republican wordsmiths had all praised Dubya’s machismo magnificence when he was contrasted with such pompous rivals as Al Gore and John Kerry, the bloom fell off that rose after 2006.
That born-again, down-to-earth, drawling Texas thing -- somehow, it had once made Bush seem like Gary Cooper in High Noon. But as the disasters mounted and the poll numbers headed southward, that Gary Cooper glow faded and these conservative intellectuals turned on their TVs to behold, with unspeakable horror, President Jethro Bodine.
Thus their reaction to Sarah Palin. While the Republican Party grassroots looked at Palin and saw an American Margaret Thatcher (except much sexier), the conservative intellectuals looked at her and saw . . . Vice President Ellie Mae Clampett.
Look, I voted for Bush twice, and quickly came to regret it, so I am not going to pick on people who are belatedly figuring out Bush was and is a disaster. After all, what would be the point of picking on someone who is only a marginally slower learner than me?
But the Palin revisionism has got to stop. Palin’s problems were her fault, not the fault of her handlers, not the fault of a liberal media, and most certainly not the fault of George Bush and the "conservative intellectuals." The reason folks saw VP Ellie Mae Clampett was not because of residual Bush hatred or because they were projecting Bush's failures onto Palin, but because of Palin's own actions.
-- JOHN COLE
As George W. Bush once noted, "You never know what your history is going to be like until long after you're gone." What I think he was trying to say is that, over time, historians may evolve toward a more positive view of his presidency than the one held by most of his contemporaries.
At the moment, this seems a vain hope. Bush's three most obvious legacies are his decision to invade Iraq, his framing of a global war on terror after Sept. 11, and the massive financial crisis. Each of these constitutes a separate epic in presidential misjudgment and mismanagement. It remains a brainteaser to come up with ways, however minor, in which Bush changed government, politics, or the world for the better. Among presidential historians, it is hardly an eccentric view that 43 ranks as America's worst president ever. On the other hand, he has nowhere to go but up.
In a different sense, however, Bush's comment has some validity to it. We do not know how people will one day view this presidency because we, Bush's contemporaries, don't yet understand it ourselves. The Bush administration has had startling success in one area—namely keeping its inner workings secret. Intensely loyal, contemptuous of the press, and overwhelmingly hostile to any form of public disclosure, the Bushies did a remarkable job at keeping their doings hidden for eight years.