Bushcrimes, Do Motives Matter?
By: Mark W Adams

In the abstract, the answer is: "Of course not."  And naturally, law and criminality are frameworks for abstract thought.  If it were purely a legal decision of whether we go after the Bush crime syndicate, it would be just as easy as it would be if it were merely a partisan issue.  Go for it.  Unfortunately, it's never that simple.
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 (up).
Greenwald is unimpressed, likewise Digby.  Mind you, they are looking at things from an admittedly ideological/partisan lens, but their conclusion that even looking for a compromised centric position on blatant violations of Constitutional and International Law principles -- running from the left as all Democratic leaders instinctively do -- is that Obama's approach is fundamentally flawed.  But if America wanted assurances that all corporatists, constitution shredders and torturers would be put up against the wall, we'd have elected Dennis Kucinich or at least John Edwards. 

Elections have consequences, but even the victors have to acknowledge at the end of the day that Obama is Pat Buchanan and Tom DeLay's president too.

From a partisan perspective, it is a losing cause to think that by acting "reasonable" (read: accepting Right wing framing) you will win over conservatives to support, or at least not thwart your agenda.  I'm not just talking about the Hannitys and Limbaughs or even "Cigar Dave" who insists that B. Hussein Osama [sic] will invite al Queada to tea at the White House -- but also to think that the Village Courtiers in Washington will blythely go along with anything that smacks of liberalism without being persuaded the alternative presents a moral imperitive on a par with their insistence that terror suspects are fair game for torture.

However, it is not a partisan issue whether we investigate and prosecute members of the Bush administration for their crimes.  Not really.  It is a political decision to be sure, but not a right/left issue.  Just as any prosecutor in this country is invested with nearly unfettered discretion on their decision whether or not to bring charges against a suspect -- and under what circumstances and at what time -- what the Obama administration does is about whether they are willing to invest his enormous political capital into transformative change or engage in retribution.  The political calculus may require that he cannot do both, at least for now -- at least that's the decision the smoke-signals from Camp Obama seem to indicate he's made.

That doesn't mean that members of both the right and the left won't reenact the Sturm and Drang we always do over this -- and all of us will be convinced that Obama isn't one of us no matter what he does.  Maybe that's a consequence of leadership of a nation this diverse and as vocal as we all are about it.  Bush was disavowed by the true-believers on the right some years ago, crystalizing the moment he thought about appointing Harriet Meirs to the Supreme Court and didn't round up anyone with a Mexican accent lacking a green card. 

Note how "concerned" the right is with protection of (at least) American lives as they defend what can be argued are crimes against humanity.  Beyond the elitist view of American exceptionalism this betrays, it also highlights the bullying nature of the conservative mindset.  Just as their anti-abortion/abstinence-only stance has the fringe benefit of saving innocent lives while perpetuating male domination of women (that's the feature, not the bug), environmental and consumer protections, food and drug regulation, occupational safety as well as anti-discrimination laws all protect American lives everywhere.  The reason they scoff at such measures yet champion torture and war in the name of shielding us all from danger is that it gives them a chance to show just how tough they are.

One thing that would do immeasurable damage to their chest-thumping culture would be to set an example at the highest level that their kind of ends-justifying-means, Jack Bauer approach to national security is punishable by law.  But that's the whole point, isn't it?