In commenting on Obama’s recent statement about wanting to look forward, rather than investigate the Bush administration’s crimes, one of the guest bloggers at Dispatches says
Unfortunately, Obama doesn’t get it. If prosecuting people for their crimes was “looking backward,” there’d be no need to do it. Why did we prosecute poor Slobodan Miloscevic? He was out of power after all, so why didn’t we just “look forward?”
Looking forward, I see the prospect of future presidents thinking they can commit any crimes they want without fearing retribution. That’s a pretty good argument for prosecuting high-level Bush officials (I’m looking at you, Don R.), if not Bush himself.
Right, except for that first sentence. It seems rather unlikely that Obama doesn’t get it. It’s just that there are inescapable political issues involved. Investigations and prosecutions would probably consume our political debate for years. They would be very controversial and require political capital that could be spent in other areas. Obama has an agenda and investigating the previous administration to any significant degree means giving up on some of it. For Obama to make the right call here would require quite a bit of political courage and taking a big risk. I don’t think Obama is that kind of politician.
I would really, really like to be wrong, though.