Sunday, July 12, 2009

Missing The Point

Reaction to yesterday's Newsweek piece on Eric Holder considering a special prosecutor on the Bush torture regime has been interesting, but it has all missed the point. The Wingers have gone into a spittle-flecked meltdown as expected, but the folks on the left have completely missed the subtle point of the article. Tim F. at Balloon Juice, Steve Benen, D-Day, and Hilzoy all seem to think (with various levels of cynicism) that the article was some sort of Eric Holder/Obama generated trial balloon to float the idea of going after Bush.

But all of them are missing the obvious point here that I mentioned yesterday: the article was written to in fact be a loud warning to Obama and Holder not to try it or face losing Obama's domestic agenda.

Once again, the article warns:
While no final decision has been made, an announcement could come in a matter of weeks, say these sources, who decline to be identified discussing a sensitive law-enforcement matter. Such a decision would roil the country, would likely plunge Washington into a new round of partisan warfare, and could even imperil Obama's domestic priorities, including health care and energy reform. Holder knows all this, and he has been wrestling with the question for months.
That right there is the most important sentence in the piece. What does going after torture authorizers have to do with health care reform?


But the warning is there, clear as day...if Obama doesn't put a leash on Eric Holder, he risks his domestic agenda in Congress. Ask yourselves who would be able to make this possible.

The GOP? Hardly. They will already vote against Obama's agenda. That leaves the ConservaDems, the Sensible Village Centrists who all believe they are the heart of Congress like Evan F'ckin Bayh, Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Arlen Specter and friends. The warning is on behalf of them. If Obama lets Holder do this, then the ConservaDems will sink his agenda. Why nobody else sees this obvious point, I'm not sure. The Wise Folks Of Washington have spoken. "We thought you killed this investigation garbage back in April. Now we find out Holder may do it on his own accord? You will stop his agenda, or we will kill yours. Choose wisely."

The article goes on to describe Eric Holder as an idealist fighting the political reality of the Rahmbo White House, but it calls Holder's pushing on torture memos as "miscalculations", "missteps" and "mistakes".

The article comes not to praise Eric Holder's investigation, but to bury it. It's painfully obvious to me that this is a Village hit piece...and a warning.

[UPDATE 9:51 AM] The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder is again pushing out the same Village warning to Obama and Holder: Don't do it.
Appointing a special prosecutor to investigate Bush-era policies of any sort is fraught with risk, even exempting the public and political ramifications. Investigations like these have a way of snowballing. The intelligence community will strenuously reject and resist; there are very legitimate concerns about the integrity of classified information.

If Holder decides to go ahead, he may not entirely satisfy critics of the Bush-era policies; a special prosecutor might not be given a mandate to investigate more than a handful of compartmented programs.

On the one hand, it is tough to see a prosecutor being given a mandate to determine whether former Vice President Dick Cheney ordered CIA officials to not brief Congress on a highly sensitive, classified intelligence collection program given the very real chance that the national security damage resulting from the disclosure of information about the program might be significant.
Alarm bells are ringing loud and clear in the Village today. Watch for the reactions on the Sunday Shows.

[UPDATE 11:44 AM] Amazingly enough, it's Winger MacRanger who finds the brass ring.
Newsweak left out that Attorney Generals also work at the pleasure of the President, and Holder can’t comb his hair without Obama signing off on it. Nevertheless, there will be no investigation, it’s false.

Here’s why. First, note the article comes out while Obama’s out of town, on a weekend. I guarantee you that once he’s back you’ll hear a giant “fizzz” of this story. 1) Obama is banking his entire Presidency on establishing government healthcare, and it’s beginning to look like 1992 again. 2) Obama’s poll numbers are slipping already, and the public polls have already shown a collective “yawn” for a CIA/Congress/Bush/Cheney bash fest, especially in light of growing foreclosures, lost jobs, generally sucky economics.

His reasons are specious (he goes straight into how a probe will somehow end up damning the Democrats and the Librul Media more), but his conclusions are right: Obama really has bet his legacy on health care reform, and MacRanger has put together that a Holder probe is a threat to Obamacare. Not only does he see the warning, but MacRanger fully expects Obama to fold.

Given Obama's performance on national security issues so far, I don't put the odds of an investigation to be very high either.

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