Former vice president Cheney lashed out yesterday at the Obama-Holder Justice Department’s decision to investigate cases of alleged abuse of terrorists detainees. Among other comments, Cheney said he was okay with cases where interrogators went beyond what they were authorized to do.
This is a significant remark, I think. The Obama administration is trying to walk a fine line with its investigation. By investigating something (and likely prosecuting someone), it hopes to satisfy its leftist base. By limiting the investigation to cases where interrogators allegedly exceeded their authority, i.e., to so-called rogue interrogators, it hopes to appear reasonable to a public that’s (1) strongly inclined to sympathize with those who obtained information from terrorists during the perilous period following 9/11 and (2) strongly disinclined to see what looks like a political witch hunt. And, of course, the administration can always broaden the scope of its investigation if the political climate becomes more amenable to doing so — sorry, I mean if that’s where “the facts and the law lead.”
Cheney is having none of it. By affirming the actions of the so-called rogue interrogators, Cheney resists giving the administration its sacrificial lambs.
But Cheney wasn’t the commander-in-chief. What I’d really like to see, if it’s true (as I suspect was at the time), is a statement from President Bush that he too was comfortable in cases where interrogators went beyond what they were authorized to do.
Overall, I think it’s to Bush’s credit that he is staying out of the political fray. It’s never very seemly when an ex-president starts sniping at his successor. But a statement about how he viewed the actions of interrogators wouldn’t necessarily amount to sniping at Obama. On its face, it would just be a statement of support for those who did what they reasonably believed needed to be done to protect this country.
Such a statement would, in addition, tend to undermine the administration’s quest to prosecute someone without appearing to be political. But that’s a pose that should be undermined.
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