Left Outmaneuvered Again – Bush rejects pardons
Yes, they were clever, very clever. President George W. Bush’s decision not to utilize his pardon power on behalf of top administration officials (or just about anybody else) has confounded the expectations of many observers.
In hindsight, we have to admit it was a brilliant move, their best gambit under the circumstances. It repeats their winning strategy of admitting, after their criminality was exposed by the New York Times in December 2005, that they engaged in widespread warrantless wiretapping.
Similarly, we can now see that by not issuing pardons, they have chosen their best option. They have dared Obama and Congress to try and hold them accountable. Had they issued wide ranging pardons in the manner many expected, they could have counted on a massive outcry and pressure on the Obama administration and on Congress to follow up appropriately.
They understood that the more Obama and Congress resisted such pressure, the more traction the issue would have. Last minute pardons by Bush would have amounted to a significant stain on his legacy, as for example the Marc Rich pardon has tarnished the Clinton legacy. Bush’s decision not to issue pardons does as much as was in his power to defuse the issue of his extraordinary crimes. It also allows Obama and Congress to quietly sidestep the issue if they so choose.
Whether there will be any measure of accountability for the Bush-Cheney crimes may depend on whatever pressure the Left can mount on the Obama administration and the decisions of incoming Attorney General Eric Holder. The indications are that Bush’s decision has already paid dividends with the announcement (1.27.09) that veteran Senator Arlen Specter, the decisive voice behind the Republican attempt to impose conditions on Eric Holder has come out in favor of the nomination after a private conversation with him. (See “Sen. Specter Backs Holder--But What Did Holder Promise?” by David Swanson, of the afterdowningstreet.org website.) Swanson reports speculation suggesting that Holder may have agreed not to investigate Bush’s torture policies.
A surprising development is Dick Cheney’s post inauguration public statement expressing outrage that Bush didn’t pardon top vice presidential aide, Scooter Libby. If Cheney’s statement was sincere, it could suggest a depth to the schism between Bush and Cheney that many hadn’t suspected. We might have guessed that Cheney would have been able to enforce his will on the subject.
We can wonder if the Bush people had their own sufficiently deep understanding of the extent of the pathology of their indispensable colleague and they wished to preserve some distance from the darkness.
Footnote to Addendum
The above addendum raises a question that I had thought was settled in my own mind: namely the question of the extent to which there was any difference in agenda between Bush and Cheney, and the extent to which George W. Bush was a willing and knowledgeable participant in the policies and crimes of his administration.
There was no doubt in my mind (and I find evidence to suggest) that the two men shared exactly the same agenda of pathological destruction. I never thought that Bush was merely an empty shirt or puppet, and I continue to believe that Bush knew and approved virtually all the policies that Cheney promoted and enforced.