blog: archive

April 22, 2009

Politics

One Step Closer To A Banana Republic

by Clay Staggs

Honestly, the Obama administration is even more fertile ground for blog material than even I dreamed possible. I thought his performance at the Summit of the Americas this past weekend was awful. Not because he shook Chavez’s hand, but because he failed to stand up for what we as American ostensibly believe in - you know, freedom, democracy - and to condemn those things that we oppose - you know, communism, the crushing of political dissent, etc. No, Obama could not be bothered to defend those things in the face of Hugo Chavez’s propagandizing book gift or Daniel Ortega’s stemwinder condemning American imperialism.

I thought that was bad. But what came yesterday is arguably the very worst yet.

Obama, reversing an earlier position, now says that he is open to the possibility of the Attorney General prosecuting the Bush administration officials who authorized “enhanced interrogation techniques,” such as waterboarding. This is a radical departure from 200+ years of American tradition. We do not criminalize policy differences with the previous administration. That’s what banana republics do, and it’s also why those countries are resistant to democratic reforms - the dictators fearing that the folks who win the election will prosecute them for political differences the same way they have done. Up until now, this has been wisely resisted in the US. We don’t even prosecute those who should be prosecuted - Nixon was pardoned, you know.

Anyone with a shred of wisdom and an ounce of common sense can understand why this policy is desirable. Who would go to work for a president of party X if the next president of party Y is liable to have him prosecuted for his policy work? It is wrong in every philosophical way for a policy difference to be turned into a crime. But this goes beyond philosophy - this is politics, and stupid politics at that.

Obama’s own Director of National Security has admitted that the interrogation techniques used - only on a very few high value detainees - yielded extremely valuable information, and, in fact, disrupted a terrorist plot on the scale of 9/11 that was aimed at Los Angeles. This is what our allegedly brilliant president proposes to criminalize. He even thinks that the lawyers within the Bush administration who wrote legal memos opining that such methods were not illegal (and they have yet to be criminalized by Congress) should be open to prosecution. How does that make everyone feel? A lawyer can be prosecuted for rendering a legal opinion that’s politically out of favor? How would such a policy have affected, say, the civil rights movement?

This is all blindingly stupid. The only explanation for this is raw political payback. Obama’s political power base is slobbering at the chance to scalp those who authorized waterboarding, despite the fact that LA could have been up in smoke without that. Rather than call out his own side’s blind spots, he’s pandering to it in the most destructive way I can possibly imagine.

I have tried to give this president the benefit of the doubt. I have thought that it was not in the interests of conservatives to have a knee jerk reaction to every policy difference with Obama, and I still think that. But this issue is of such an order of magnitude of difference that no one should hold back on their criticism. And, for starters, check out Hugh Hewitt’s blistering condemnation of Obama on this issue here and here.

I do not want this country to become a cross between a European social-welfare state and a banana republic, but I fear with every passing day that this is exactly where we’re headed.

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