Right-wing noise machine, from American Insurgency
Now that the hows and whys of the Bush Administration's torture policies are becoming more apparent, the new Obama Administration is sort of getting backed into a corner on what to do about it. On the surface, it would seem that President Obama just wants it to go away. As someone who voted for him, I'm hopeful that there's a little more to it than that, some sort of "master plan" for dealing with the issue in a way that doesn't let war crimes go unpunished.
Politics is tricky business, I know. Timing is very important. Not irritating your own party is important. Dealing with the right-wing noise machine, and making sure that it doesn't drive public sentiment is important. But you know what else is important? Rule of law. Torture is a federal and international crime. Despite the innumerable protestations by George W. Bush, Dana Perino and others, the United States did torture. As policy.
The Republicans (and their apologists) are having a little bit of trouble with this issue too. They can't--most of them--outright endorse torture. They have to downplay the torture that did happen as "not torture." Which is getting more and more implausible the more that we learn. So to muddy the issue, they've got to paint this as a liberal vendetta. A way to get even for years out of power. A way to even the score for Clinton's impeachment. Look for the bulk of conservative outrage on this to focus on that, rather than to take apart the actual issues.
Obama has one big advantage here, and that is the President isn't really the guy to pursue this anyway. It's the Justice Department's and Congress' job to investigate, and if Obama wants, he can pretty much leave it in their hands. Still, many of us peons probably don't know or see the divisions there, so it will be difficult for Obama to steer completely clear.
Nancy Skinner, the radio talk show host who took Randi Rhodes' place when Nova M Radio folded, is of the Peggy Noonan "walk away" crowd on the issue. Skinner is ostensibly a liberal/progressive, but of the token FOX "News" variety. There is too much to do, Skinner argues, from global climate change, to the economy, to health care. The torture issue would be a distraction, and would derail the rest of Obama's agenda.*
Maybe. And that would be unfortunate. But anti-torture laws are laws. There simply isn't a legal argument to not investigate them. As pretty as "looking forward and not back" might sound, it is terrible reasoning. All crimes happened in the past. You don't just decide to be magnanimous about theft, murder, or other crimes because they happened in the past. This might be sticky politics, but it is necessary.
We know how the right-wing noise machine works now. We can guess what they're going to squawk about before they even get revved up. It is incumbent upon the Obama Administration and its supporters to fight the screaming with facts, as fast as they lob a "poutrage" outburst. It's a big task, but it's an important fight.
*UPDATE: Nancy Skinner herself has a response to my opinion of her opinion. I don't ever intentionally misrepresent the facts or try to mislead, but I'm completely capable of being wrong. So read Nancy's comment below, and make up your own mind. Thanks!