Obama Won’t Prosecute

The fuss over legal memos, torture opinions, the efficacy or non-efficacy of torture as a tactic, and of course what, exactly constitutes torture continues. Lost in this hubbub of eager debate, spin, and hyperbole is one simple fact; Obama will not support the prosecution of Bush’s lawyers over their memos on interrogation methods. In fact, I’ll wager that if our overheated Congress hands him some kind of bill that involves punishment for the Bush administration lawyers, he will veto it.

Why? Simple. A little thing known as executive power.

Everything our new President has done since coming into office at the beginning of this year has been in line with a single, overarching philosophy, concentration of power in the hands of experts who can fix all our problems, preferably overseen by the White House itself. In every area, he has chosen to bring decision making closer to the White House rather than move it farther away. When Congressional Democrats howled about his only major bipartisan nomination, saying that the (moderate) Republican could not be trusted to oversee the upcoming US census, Obama chose to pull control of the census away from the Department of The Interior, and place it directly under the control of his Chief of Staff. This, of course, was no fix at all, and the historic shift away from a less partisan bureaucracy and toward a traditionally more partisan position did not go over well at all, forcing the President to reverse course again, and put it back, after the Republican declined the appointment of course.

Obama chose to bring control over the GM bailout far closer to the White House than many thought necessary, practicable, or beneficial. He retained a very direct oversight, playing a key role in the ousting of GM CEO Rick Wagoner, and establishing direct White House control over the GM bailout process rather than keep it in the Treasury. Indeed, the Treasury remains understaffed even in day 94 of the new Administration, leaving that Department unable to carry out the responsibilities that are absolutely critical for our economic recovery.

At the G-20 summit, the new President chose to collect regulatory powers into the hands of a very few individuals (see “In Praise of Barack Obama“) who will oversee all financial institutions in the World. His health care proposal depends on a central power in Washington to dole out care, his cap and trade emissions programs likewise depends on a centralized Washington control, and on and on.

All of these major actions and policies undertaken by the new Administration point to an outlook that is consistently in favor of centralization of power in the hands of Washington experts, and direct, hands-on control by the Obama White House. This philosophy’s relative merits and downsides can be argued, but not the fact that our new President embodies this mode of thought.

So we get to the question; Bush Administration lawyers, in the heated environment shortly after 9/11, were asked to provide opinions as to the legality of various modes of interrogation of people not protected under our Constitution. Various opinions were given, and the White House proceeded to set up a program that then President Bush considered to be on balance beneficial. It was felt that this program garnered more valuable information than the loss of “status” or “reputation” of the USA in foreign circles, and any other down sides might overwhelm in benefit. Bush made the call, and these interrogations were conducted.

Now, we have a new President who obviously would have made a different choice. He would draw the line somewhere else. He would apply the protection of our Constitution to every human on Earth, whatever the unintended consequences of that decision might be (and he can no more know the fallout of that decision now than Bush could know the entire fallout of his decision when he made it.) Congress is inhabited by a herd of panicky, unthinking politicians crazed by the smell of populist blood in the air. A call is made for a Congressional investigation into various Bush Administration officials (which, if history is any guide, could be farcical witch hunts indeed. See; “Blackwater, the New Fall Guy“).

The problem for Obama is that if he makes a precedent out of an investigation or prosecution of former Administration officials for what amounts to a policy difference, he does not know that his own Administration will be immune. This is especially dangerous at a time when Spain is attempting to overthrow our system of legal protections for our own citizens by claiming a global authority for it’s own judiciary. If so called “International courts” can prosecute any former administration official for any difference in policy, and if we have already created a precedent here at home with a politically motivated, partisan Congressional investigation of former Administration officials, he cannot expect that he and his political allies will get any better treatment down the road, as political winds change.

Barack Obama is savvy enough to know all this. That is why he will not endanger the power of his own White House in the long run by pursuing a partisan prosecution in this matter. He does not want to do anything that will limit or delimit the power of the executive; especially while he is the one sitting in the Oval Office.


~ by Jubal Biggs on April 26, 2009.

4 Responses to “Obama Won’t Prosecute”

  1. […] Original post by Jubal Biggs […]

  2. Hi, Thank you! I would now go on this blog every day!
    Thank you

  3. […] Torture A great debate is now going on as to whether the former Administration conducted torture, and if so, whether it was intentional, and if so, whether the current Administration should prosecute former officials. I have offered my own opinion that the Obama administration will not support the prosecution of Bush Administration officials simply in order to preserve executive power, and ensure that his own people will not face something similar in the future. (See “Obama Won’t Prosecute“) […]

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