One does not become POTUS after three years in the Senate without making shrewd moves. These two are genius: separating John McCain’s political legacy from the ‘Wasilla Hillbilly’ and letting others carry the torture debate so he can honestly say he has no choice but to pursue prosecution of highest Bush officials for war crimes. Jail cells in The Hague could fill as a result.
Obama has already learned to let others around him do the heavy policy lifting. They will open the door and his silence misdirects the left into a complete hurricane thinking he will do nothing, all the while waiting for the political wind to gather enough steam where he has no choice but to prosecute. Genius.
But first, John McCain will be honored at a dinner tonight hosted by Barack Obama. This will cement his legacy as a bipartisan maverick who reached across the aisle to end partisan gridlock. Conspicuously absent from the invitation list is his former running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. The other evening she was depicted by John Stewart on The Daily Show with the headline Lamey Whinehouse. As many a pundit has asked: Sarah, how can we miss you if you won’t go away?
At that dinner John McCain will be introduced by his longtime Senate friend and colleague Republican Lindsey Graham. This very public snub by President-elect Obama further marginalizes a woman whose absurd recent interviews and public self-destruction has thus far not tainted John McCain. McCain has maintained a very low profile since his election defeat in November and just this past week returned to conduct his Senate business.
Palin, on the other hand, has been on a rampage talking to every camera and microphone thrust in her face as well as a personal attack e-mail campaign to the Anchorage Daily News and every other news outlet insisting: she was mistreated by the media, her son-in-law-to-be did not drop out of high school (he did and is taking correspondence courses) and settle scores. It all makes her look an even bigger fool than most thought possible.
Obama’s second shrewd move though is the most interesting. His public pronouncements now seem a bit of a clever smokescreen. His talk about “looking forward, not back” and not directly answering questions about Bush Administration crimes around torture, led many in the media pundit pack to assume (make an ass out of u and me) that his Administration would let the Bush crimes slide.
Jonathan Turley, a highly respected US Constitutional law scholar and MSNBC commentator has been all over the airwaves asserting that there is no ambiguity here. Torture is a globally recognized war crime, Cheney, Bush and others are on video tape saying they did authorize torture and because the US is a key signatory to several treaties vowing to pursue torturers and granting them no safe haven from investigation or eventual prosecution, they have no choice but to prosecute.
Obama made the unequivocal claim two days ago that his Administration “would not conduct torture” and reiterated his determination to sign an executive order on Day One ordering the closure of Guantanamo Bay detention facility (although still more pundits said he was very vague on his closure timetable).
The most telling moment though was during Attorney General designate Eric Holder’s confirmation hearing yesterday. When asked definitively by Chairman Patrick Leahy if waterboarding was torture, he replied (after giving the proper historical context of prosecutions against US soldiers in Vietnam, Japanese, Germans and other instances) that “yes, waterboarding is torture.”
The soon-to-be chief legal officer of the USA is on record saying it is illegal.
That was astonishing bit of testimony when one considers the three previous Attorneys General (Mukasey – the current office holder, Gonzalez and Ashcroft) could/would not answer that question.
This sea change probably caused President Bush to realize his men’s “goose is cooked” so do not be surprised if Monday’s news out of Washington contains a long list of Presidential Pardons, the highest in the land “get out of jail free” card there is, for anything and anyone related to any torture inquiry.
So Addington, Feith, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzalez, Ashcroft, Mukasey, Libby et al (sounds like a law firm) may go freely within the borders of the USA. Just don’t plan on any international travel gentlemen. Ask General Pinochet about his trip to a London hospital ending in a Spanish prison for extradition/trial.
A very shrewd move Barry and it keeps your hands clean.
I predict many more to come.
Denis Campbell is a US journalist based in the United Kingdom. He contributes to newspapers and magazines, is a BBC Radio election commentator and publishes the daily e-magazine The Vadimus Post from the Latin Quo Vadimus – where are we headed and do we know why?