I had planned a post last night on the President’s comments yesterday where he left the door open “to prosecuting Bush administration officials who devised the legal authority” for intensive investigations of terrorism suspects. Yet, given that other conservative bloggers had posted on the topic–and far better than I ever could–I decided to, in the limited time available to me, focus on other topics.
Yet, in considering the first post I wrote this morning, I realize how the two topics are linked, the president’s refusal to close the door on prosecuting officials of his predecessor’s administration and his failure so far to show acknowledge the legitimacy of the Tea Party protests. To shut the door on such prosecutions and to address citizens’ concerns about a rapidly growing federal government would allow him to rise above the fray and speak out in the national interest.
He could unite the nation by refusing to consider the demands of some of his most vindictive supporters and by acknowledging the concerns of some of his harshest critics. Instead, he has chosen to throw a bone to the former while his minions badmouthed the latter.
These angry supporters are out for blood. Not content that their nemesis has left the White House, they’re still seething. They “don’t just want to defeat conservatives at the polls, they want to send them to jail.” Should the Administration attempt this prosecution, I believe it will backfire. While those targetted rack up huge legal bills, they will prevail a the courthouse and, should they invest in a public relations team, in the court of public opinion as well.
The Administration will appear vindictive, particularly as the Bush Administration officials defend their actions in the context of the times and their concerns for preventing another 9/11. Not just that, the prosecutions will exacerbate partisan differences, further dividing the nation.Â Unifying presidents work to mitigate not aggravate such divisions.
So, Obama has a choice, close the door on these prosecutions and risk the wrath of his most vengeful supporters. Or open the door and further polarize the nation over which he presides. He can be true to his campaign rhetoric or to the most vocal members of his party’s base.
The choice he makes may come to define his presidency.
RELATED: With lots of links and good insight, Law Professor William A. Jacobson offers weighs in on merits of such a prosecution. Read the whole thing and follow the links.
Now Obama is musing about extending the political reach of the criminal law. If he does so, he will find he has opened a new front of political warfare that will not soon end.
Read the whole things (both of ’em)!