Obama hearts Cheney

PHOTO: Obama

Yesterday, George Stephanopoulos, of ABC’s This Week, interviewed President-elect Barack Obama. Stephanopoulos basically got Obama to admit that he was giving significant campaign pledges and planned to follow the doomed path of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. Just to piss off his most die-hard supporters, he also threw in a few good words for Dick Cheney.

On Israel and the Palestinians

When discussing Obama’s non-response to the crisis/massacre in Gaza, Stephanopolous asked this:

STEPHANOPOULOS: But more broadly, will your policy in the Middle East, will it be building on the Bush policy or a clean break?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I think that if you look not just at the Bush administration, but also what happened under the Clinton administration, you are seeing the general outlines of an approach.

And I think that players in the region understand the compromises that are going to need to be made. But the politics of it are hard. And the reason it’s so important for the United States to be engaged and involved immediately, not waiting until the end of their term, is because working through the politics of this requires a third party that everybody has confidence, wants to see a fair and just outcome.

And I think that an Obama administration, if we do it right, can provide that kind of (INAUDIBLE).

I think that pretty much translates into Obama not changing the status quo in terms of our blanket support for Israeli militarism. But I may be reading too much into it.

On advice from Darth Cheney

STEPHANOPOULOS: Vice President Cheney has been giving a series of exit interviews and he told Mark Nolan(ph) of CBS that the Bush counterterrorism policies have definitely made the United States safer. And he added this piece of advice for you.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY: Before you start to implement your campaign rhetoric you need to sit down and find out precisely what it is we did and how we did it. Because it is going to be vital to keeping the nation safe and secure in the years ahead and it would be a tragedy if they threw over those policies simply because they’ve campaigned against them.

(END OF AUDIO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you going to take it?

OBAMA: I think that was pretty good advice, which is I should know what’s going on before we make judgments and that we shouldn’t be making judgments on the basis of incomplete information or campaign rhetoric. So, I’ve got no quibble with that particular quote. I think if Vice President Cheney were here he and I would have some significant disagreements on some things that we know happened.

On banning torture

OBAMA: I’m not going to lay out a particular [interrogation] program because again, I thought that Dick Cheney’s advice was good, which is let’s make sure we know everything that’s being done [in terms of interrogation]. But the interesting thing George was that during the campaign, although John McCain and I had a lot of differences on a lot of issues, this is one where we didn’t have a difference, which is that it is possible for us to keep the American people safe while still adhering to our core values and ideals and that’s what I intend to carry forward in my administration.

I’m not sure why Obama is equivocating here. Just say we’re going to stop torturing prisoners and be done with it. It’s the right thing to do in terms of getting the best intelligence and restoring our moral standing in the world.

On closing Gitmo

OBAMA: It is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize and we are going to get it done but part of the challenge that you have is that you have a bunch of folks that have been detained, many of whom who may be very dangerous who have not been put on trial or have not gone through some adjudication. And some of the evidence against them may be tainted even though it’s true. And so how to balance creating a process that adheres to rule of law, habeas corpus, basic principles of Anglo American legal system, by doing it in a way that doesn’t result in releasing people who are intent on blowing us up.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Everyone there is very dangerous, even if they aren’t guilty. You can’t wrongly imprison and torture people and not expect them to be eternally and royally pissed off. I’m not sure I know the solution to the problem, but let’s not pretend we can just let any of these people go without paying them handsomely for destroying their lives. Maybe some ocean front property and a million dollars might persuade each one to forget they hate America.

On prosecuting Bush administration crimes

My final quote comes a from an area I think is vitally important, if we want to avoid repeating the mistakes of the last 8 years:

STEPHANOPOULOS: The most popular question on your own website is related to this. On change.gov it comes from Bob Fertik of New York City and he asks, “Will you appoint a special prosecutor ideally Patrick Fitzgerald to independently investigate the greatest crimes of the Bush administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping.”

OBAMA: We’re still evaluating how we’re going to approach the whole issue of interrogations, detentions, and so forth. And obviously we’re going to be looking at past practices and I don’t believe that anybody is above the law. On the other hand I also have a belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards. And part of my job is to make sure that for example at the CIA, you’ve got extraordinarily talented people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe. I don’t want them to suddenly feel like they’ve got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering (ph).

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, no 9/11 commission with Independence subpoena power?

OBAMA: We have not made final decisions, but my instinct is for us to focus on how do we make sure that moving forward we are doing the right thing. That doesn’t mean that if somebody has blatantly broken the law, that they are above the law. But my orientation’s going to be to move forward.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, let me just press that one more time. You’re not ruling out prosecution, but will you tell your Justice Department to investigate these cases and follow the evidence wherever it leads?

OBAMA: What I — I think my general view when it comes to my attorney general is he is the people’s lawyer. Eric Holder’s been nominated. His job is to uphold the Constitution and look after the interests of the American people, not to be swayed by my day-to-day politics. So, ultimately, he’s going to be making some calls, but my general belief is that when it comes to national security, what we have to focus on is getting things right in the future, as opposed looking at what we got wrong in the past.

I think we should consider this Obama’s pledge to give blanket immunity to the Bush administration for torture and illegal wiretaps. What Obama doesn’t seem to understand is that the best way to get people to follow the law in the future is to make them afraid of what happens when they don’t. This means sending people like Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc. to court to answer for the crimes they apparently broke while in office.

Flickr photo by BohPhoto

6 Comments

  1. Ian

    I don’t know. Basically he did what all politicians do, which is to use a whole lot of words to say not a whole lot of anything. I don’t know that you could realistically expect him to try and go after Bush. The American people would be mad at him for bothering with that rather than trying to fix the country’s economic problems. Its not like he ran on a platform of prosecuting Bush either.

  2. Chris

    Ian,
    He did run on a platform of returning the rule of law and America’s moral standing. That’s not going to happen until we repudiate the disgusting and illegal actions of the Bush administration. That means hearings and trials.

  3. Ian

    I disagree. If there is anything to be learned from Nixon (Frost/Nixon was excellent by the way) and Watergate, its that punishing the President for committing crimes is not a deterrent for future Presidents. Bush clearly just did not care and the Democratic Congress was not going to hold him accountable. If we want to end future corruption and criminal activity, we should put in place laws that make it easier to prosecute the sitting President quickly and without partisanship. How long did Clinton’s ordeal drag on? It seemed like forever. When the attorney “of the people” is appointed by the President, it makes them very unlikely to prosecute the President in the event that they commit a crime. Something in our justice system needs to be changed and this is what I would much rather see Obama do. You know Bush would be pardoned eventually by a Republican president anyways.

  4. Chris

    Ian,
    I’m not sure how that’s the lesson you take away from the Nixon saga. If anything, that era of Presidential misconduct reinforces the need for deterrents to lawbreaking.

    I propose we do two things. First, we make the Attorney General an elected position. That way they are independent of the President. Second, we need to curtail the Presidential pardon power by making it subject to congressional review or something along those lines.

  5. Ian

    Well that’s sort of what I was getting at. I would even consider allowing the Supreme Court to try the case and not Congress. And what I mean by Nixon resigning not really making a difference is that our last two presidents have both broken the law and neither has had to pay for it really. Nixon’s fate was his choice in a way. His shame was his own making. Bush seems to not feel shame for his actions and neither did Clinton. The country hates Bush. That was enough for Nixon to feel bad.

  6. Chris

    As far as Nixon goes, there is also the fact that he was immediately pardoned by Gerald Ford. While he was clearly guilty and faced legal consequences, he never actually spent a day in jail like he should have.

    That’s why I’m advocating a change in the pardon system. If Nixon had seen jail, that could have had drastic deterrent effects on later presidents.