I had a comment from a new reader regarding my previous post suggesting that it was the right decision for Obama to not prosecute Bush, Cheney, and Co. after they left office. And basically, the commenter was speculating that had we prosecuted them, Republicans would have had a shitfit and behaved exactly as they have for the past two years, regular people would have behaved as they did while understanding that America prosecutes crimes against important people, and Obama still could have done what Obama did because we can do more than one thing at a time.
And first off, I’m going to dispute the “more than one thing at a time” argument, as I think the Obama Admin did a terrible job at selling their healthcare ideas while writing the bill; which technically is only one thing at one time. Yet they kind of bungled it. Admittedly, it was a very hard thing they were trying to do at one time, but that’s the whole point. In fact, they did a lousy job at selling any of their agenda at the same time as passing that agenda; and again, that counts as not being able to do one thing at one time.
But of course, that’s a lie, as Obama wasn't doing just one thing at that time. Because he’s got a fricking executive branch to run, which is a hugely complicated thing that should be more than enough for anyone to handle. So him writing legislation is just icing on the cake, while selling the legislation is the work-out you have to do after having eaten cake. And all this is fucking tough.
Yet all the same, Obama did an awesome job in the grand scheme of things, and got us lots of good legislation that made America better. Could he have done more? Maybe. But the standard isn't perfection, but rather, what we would have gotten without him. And comparing Obama's first two years with eight years of Bush, or even eight years of Clinton; Obama looks like a total badass.
Some Serious Shit
Now imagine, if you will, Bush and Cheney being arrested. Yes, a fun scene, to be sure. But honestly, we’re talking pandemonium. Seriously. Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Condie and all the rest of those jerk-offs being taken away by the FBI and put in jail. This would be some serious shit.
To suggest that the media would be covering this 25 hours a day, eight days a week is an understatement. It’s all the media would be talking about for months and months. And if the Bushies got out on bail, they’d be on the news constantly talking about how this is a miscarriage of justice and how Obama had shat on the Constitution and how this was all a political farce and whatever. And the media would eat every fucking word of this. Every fucking word.
And as I said before, the Washington Post and NY Times editors would be shaking their heads in disgust at the horrible injustice of it all, and how Obama had betrayed his post-partisan rhetoric by doing this; and exposed him as being the next Pol Pot. And as much as these lightweights can mean anything, they’d mean it. They’d think they had some real point to make, when in fact, they themselves helped aid and abet these criminals in their actions.
And the liberal blogosphere would be in ectasty as we pointed out how the media is wrong, while attacking conservatives for lying about it all. And every discussion would be about whether Bush and Cheney deserved the Gitmo treatment; with progressives insisting upon an eye for an eye, while moderate-liberals like myself would say that Gitmo was too much and everyone deserves fairness. And every news story and pseudo-news story that came out would be used to add more fuel to this fire and we'd all be having a great time discussing it.
Sucking the Oxygen from Washington
And in all this, where’s healthcare reform? Where’s the stimulus? Where are the jobs bills and Wall Street reform and all this? The media had a hard enough time covering these issues when Bush and Cheney weren't in shackles and jumpsuits. All the air and energy in Washington would have been solely focused on these trials, and nothing else would seem important by comparison. Sure, we could have gotten things done, but the focus would remain on the Bush trials.
How do I know? I remember the Clinton impeachment. For a whole fucking year, the only thing that mattered were the stains on Monica's dress and whether BJ's were sex. And the same thing happened during the Watergate hearings. Most people would much rather discuss rumors and political wars than they do policy issues, and that includes myself. Policy is boring. Everyone loves politics.
And then we'd have the rest of the country. They don't know that Bush and Cheney broke the law. They're not going to see this as the rule of law. They're going to see this as "What the fuck? Can you believe this is happening?" And they're just not going to do the research required for them to understand that Obama was doing the right thing. They'd hear Obama's side and they'd hear Republicans and the media shouting about it, and they'd be like "What the fuck? Where's my fucking job?"
And the thing is, what difference would it make? I don't believe in punishment for punishment's sake. If a murderer is never going to murder again, and we can somehow know that he'll never murder again, I might be cool with that murderer getting off. For me, justice is about rehabilitation and prevention; not vengeance, and the only thing vengeance makes better are the feelings of the person who's giving it. But it doesn't fix anything.
And without a doubt, Bush and Cheney will never do these things again. Not ever. When they're lucky, they can get invited on to TV or have someone buy them lunch. But besides that, they're toast. Nothing important will ever come out of either of these incompetents, because they've burned their bridges with their horrible behavior. So this isn't about preventing future crimes. If you want to see Cheney do a perp walk, it's only for your personal enjoyment; not the rule of law.
And maybe I'm wrong and none of this would have happened. and we could have gotten Bush in prison while also passing healthcare reform. But why take the risk? Why roll the dice when it's easy to conceive of lots of lousy outcomes, with very little pay-off? And that's a cornerstone of Obama's success is that he doesn't take unnecessary risks or wage battles he doesn't already believe he can win. And that's a super-smart policy. Because every battle isn't an isolated event, and losing one battle can lead to many more losses in the future.
And of course, the biggest point: It's over. It's done with. We won the election, Bush and his cronies are utterly powerless, and Obama let them off the hook. It's time to move on. And if anyone's still angry at Obama because he didn't disgrace Bush even more than he already disgraced himself, then it's strong evidence that the person cares much more about hurting Republicans than they do about getting shit done. And that's someone we probably shouldn't be listening to; assuming we actually care about getting shit done.
While it can be important to look back and see what we did wrong, it shouldn't be at the expense of looking forward and seeing what we need to do right. Anyone who suggests otherwise is probably not doing things right. The past is only as good as it helps us in the future.