Thursday, April 23, 2009

Obama's Pandora's Box & The WSJ

I see that Karl Rove, writing at the WSJ, has reached the same conclusion as I did in the post below - that Obama's decision to criminalize political differences by prosecuting Bush era OLC attorneys for their advice on CIA interrogation methods will create a maelstrom in our politics the likes of which have not been seen in living memory. I would add that it will be a maelstrom not seen since at least April 11, 1861.


Obama's decision to green light the prosecution of OLC attorneys for what amounts to a difference of political opinion violates his oath to support and defend the Constitution. At a minimum, as I noted below and as the WSJ notes in an editorial today, Obama has poisoned our body politic. The question is, will he act to stop it before the poison takes full hold at tremendous cost to our nation. This from Karl Rove writing in the WSJ:

Mark down the date. Tuesday, April 21, 2009, is the moment that any chance of a new era of bipartisan respect in Washington ended. By inviting the prosecution of Bush officials for their antiterror legal advice, President Obama has injected a poison into our politics that he and the country will live to regret.

Policy disputes, often bitter, are the stuff of democratic politics. Elections settle those battles, at least for a time, and Mr. Obama's victory in November has given him the right to change policies on interrogations, Guantanamo, or anything on which he can muster enough support. But at least until now, the U.S. political system has avoided the spectacle of a new Administration prosecuting its predecessor for policy disagreements. This is what happens in Argentina, Malaysia or Peru, countries where the law is treated merely as an extension of political power.

If this analogy seems excessive, consider how Mr. Obama has framed the issue. He has absolved CIA operatives of any legal jeopardy, no doubt because his intelligence advisers told him how damaging that would be to CIA morale when Mr. Obama needs the agency to protect the country. But he has pointedly invited investigations against Republican legal advisers who offered their best advice at the request of CIA officials.

. . . Mr. Obama seemed to understand the peril of such an exercise when he said, before his inauguration, that he wanted to "look forward" and beyond the antiterror debates of the Bush years. As recently as Sunday, Rahm Emanuel said no prosecutions were contemplated and now is not a time for "anger and retribution." Two days later the President disavowed his own chief of staff. Yet nothing had changed except that Mr. Obama's decision last week to release the interrogation memos unleashed a revenge lust on the political left that he refuses to resist.

. . . [H]e is trying to co-opt his left-wing base by playing to it -- only to encourage it more. Within hours of Mr. Obama's Tuesday comments, Senator Carl Levin piled on with his own accusatory Intelligence Committee report. The demands for a "special counsel" at Justice and a Congressional show trial are louder than ever, and both Europe's left and the U.N. are signaling their desire to file their own charges against former U.S. officials.

Those officials won't be the only ones who suffer if all of this goes forward. Congress will face questions about what the Members knew and when, especially Nancy Pelosi when she was on the House Intelligence Committee in 2002. The Speaker now says she remembers hearing about waterboarding, though not that it would actually be used. Does anyone believe that? Porter Goss, her GOP counterpart at the time, says he knew exactly what he was hearing and that, if anything, Ms. Pelosi worried the CIA wasn't doing enough to stop another attack. By all means, put her under oath.

Mr. Obama may think he can soar above all of this, but he'll soon learn otherwise. The Beltway's political energy will focus more on the spectacle of revenge, and less on his agenda. The CIA will have its reputation smeared, and its agents second-guessing themselves. And if there is another terror attack against Americans, Mr. Obama will have set himself up for the argument that his campaign against the Bush policies is partly to blame.

. . . Mr. Obama is more popular than his policies, due in part to his personal charm and his seeming goodwill. By indulging his party's desire to criminalize policy advice, he has unleashed furies that will haunt his Presidency.

Read the entire article. I really think that Karl Rove stops too short here. I will reiterate my concluding analysis from the post below:

I blogged on my analysis of the legal memos here. I read them in full and with an open mind. I know more than a little about the law. My conclusion regarding the OLC memos was that they present colorable legal arguments that the enhanced interrogation techniques fell short of the legal definition of "torture." I also concluded that there were some weaknesses in the analysis such that reasonable people could disagree. That said, as of yet, I have heard not a single principled argument in disagreement. I emphasize that because quite literally everyone I have seen and heard on the topic has cited no opposing precedent to support their conclusory assertions and labels that the interrogation techniques were unlawful torture. At any rate, what Obama, Soros and the far left want to do now is, as they indicated prior to the election, criminalize their disagreement. I could imagine no greater threat to the fabric of our nation. Even the attempt to do this is going to set off a maelstrom the likes of which we have never seen in this country since 1861.

It does not end there. As I see it, if Obama and his far left base succeed in successfully prosecuting the attorneys over this, then President Obama will have abandoned his most sacred duty - to support and defend the Constitution. That is the day the far left crosses the Rubicon and we cease to be a free nation. The day any one of the OLC attorneys are marched into prison because of a political disagreement can and should be the day a true civil war - one that involves violence - starts in this country. Trust me when I say that up until three days ago, never did I think it the remotest possibility that those words would ever pass my lips.

Obama may be intelligent, but he is incredibly unrealistic and naive if he does not recognize the forces he is unleashing. He would be very wise to end the threatened prosecution of the OLC attorneys immediately. This scenario could very easily spiral far out of Obama's control and it could do so quickly.

The painting at the top of this post is "Pandora's Box" by Howard David Johnson.

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