January 23, 2009



The crucial need to investigate presidential excesses
by Jim Hightower

A former White House lawyer says that Barack Obama should not open probes into various illegalities and executive abuses by the Bush-Cheney regime: "A new president doesn't want to look vengeful," he intoned, adding that "the last thing a new administration wants to do is spend its time and energy rehashing the perceived sins of the old one."

But this is not about “hash” — it's about the Constitution, and it's not about vengeance, but about whether presidents and vice-presidents can use executive privilege and claims of war powers to subvert the rule of law.

We now know, for example, that even while the Bushites were publicly insisting that they didn't condone torture, they were aggressively practicing it in Guantanamo and elsewhere. Is there no reckoning for that? Or for spying illegally on millions of Americans? Or for unilaterally rewriting laws through the use of obscure signing statements? Or for politicizing the powerful role of federal prosecutors? Or for abusing the state secrets privilege in order to impose executive supremacy over the courts and Congress.

If we just shove all this in some White House closet, with no public airing of what went on, then the abuses become presidential precedents, sanctioning future presidents to pull them out of the closet whenever they want.

Also, Bush, Cheney, and their apologists now assert that even if there were illegal acts, it's OK because they made America safer. Well, did they really? If there's no digging into what happened and what actual effect it had, we have no truth and no guidance for the future.

Obama's White House shouldn't be the ones to do this job. Rather, Congress should take it on, or set up a no-nonsense investigative commission with full subpoena power to get down to the real truth. To know where we're going, we need to know exactly where we've been.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work — and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown— visit www.jimhightower.com


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