Memo to Obama: You Can Hold Bush and Cheney Accountable While Still Moving Forward
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"We must avoid any temptation simply to move on. We must instead be honest with ourselves and the world as we condemn our nation's past transgressions and reject Bush's corruption of our American ideals. Our constitutional democracy cannot survive with a government shrouded in secrecy, nor can our nation's honor be restored without full disclosure."
This becomes all the more important as Bush and Cheney continue their Polish the Legacy Tour -- aka Lie-a-palooza '09.
During his Monday presser, which he dubbed "the ultimate exit interview," Bush thanked reporters for giving him a chance to defend his record "because I think it's a good, strong record." And defend it he did, standing behind the war in Iraq, his handling of Katrina, the use of Gitmo, and his tax cuts. And he strongly disagreed with "the assessment that our moral standing [in the world] has been damaged."
As for the economy, Bush insisted, "I inherited a recession, I am ending on a recession. In the meantime, there were 52 months of uninterrupted growth." Which is kind of like saying the flight of the Hindenburg was fabulous up until the landing.
Cheney has been even more relentlessly on message -- ie pathologically in denial. Say what you will about the VP, the guy is savvy.
Watching him make the exit interview rounds, including his brazenly unrepentant turn with Wolf Blitzer on Sunday, has been like watching a brilliant lawyer defending a clearly guilty client. He has constructed a narrative of what has happened, cherry-picked and twisted every fact to back up his story, and then repeatedly hammered home his rendering of things, refusing to give an inch. His version of what has happened over the past eight years is air tight, iron clad -- and completely wrong.
Among the lowlights from his interview with Blitzer was his demonstrably false claim that the administration "did not base going after Saddam Hussein on any connection with 9/11," his demonstrably false claim that "there wasn't anything the administration did to create that inaccuracy on the part of the [pre-war] intelligence," and his demonstrably false claim that waterboarding "is not torture" because "we don't do torture."
Cheney also has a masterful ability to pass the buck, as when he told Bob Schieffer that the chaos and bloodshed that followed the fall of Baghdad should be laid at the feet of the Iraqi people: "There weren't any Iraqis early on who were willing to stand up and take responsibility for their own affairs." And that torture, which isn't really torture since we don't "do torture," was, in any case, okay because morally creative legal flunkies like John Yoo told them it was: "What we did was authorized by the legal authorities that were to be the source of that kind of advice."
As ridiculous and deceitful as Cheney's closing arguments are, inflicting this much damage to the Constitution then coming up with rationales that allow high crimes to dissolve into Sunday morning rhetorical squabbles requires an impressive level of brainpower. But it's brainpower at its most dangerous -- divorced from judgment, wisdom, and reality.
That's why we can't allow the historical revisionism to stand uncontested.
I am all for moving forward. But we can move forward as a nation that looks the other way when it comes to torture and lawlessness. Or we can move forward as the nation envisioned in the Constitution that Obama is about to solemnly swear to preserve, protect, and defend.