The recent controversy surrounding the release of the CIA “torture memos” has become the number one issue on American political scene – far surpassing the much debated stimulus package, Mr. Obama’s controversial “good will” tour, or even the recent furor over the authenticity and the true meaning of the “tea-parties.” And understandably so, for there has been a lot of gear–shifting of late and changing of minds since the decision was first reached to make these memos public.
Indeed, the initial assurances that no one will be charged – least of all, the underlings – have given way to the possibility that some of the lawyers and the ex-president’s legal advisors might, not to mention the ex-president himself and his closest staff. This would seem to fly in the face of Mr. Obama’s assurances that he wasn't going to engage in divisive politics but look instead to the future, not to mention the possibility that he just might be influenced in the matter of the unfolding scandal by the polls, or public sentiment, or the growing pressure from the radical Left – just as he was, some would say, in the matter of the AIG bonuses.
This wouldn't bode well for the new president, so the argument goes, who ought to be nothing but desirous of securing as much good will and public support as he possibly can (especially in light of the economic crisis and other urgent matters facing us). In short, he’s only shooting himself in the foot, and more, by this sudden reversal or at least by entertaining the possibility of future prosecution.
This is the gist of a Wall Street Journal editorial, "Presidential Poison," April 23, online edition.
The editors argue that there is nothing to be gained from pursuing this matter any further, and among the reasons they cite are such disparate things as possible damage to the CIA morale at the time when we need them the most, the members of the Congress who have seemingly approved of the questionable interrogative tactics, the Madame Speaker included, not to mention Mr. Obama himself who would only be squandering his immense popularity and political capital, which thus far surpass his unpopular polices, were he to engage in any course of action that would even smack of retaliation for sins past. In fact, they go as far as say that doing that would put us on the level of such “lawless” countries as Argentina, Malaysia or Peru, “where law is treated merely as an extension of political power.” And as a measure of common sense and what they deem as reasonable policy, they suggest that the president should rest content with the recent policy changes at Guantanamo and other interrogation facilities and leave it at that. Why dig into the past and risk the spirit of bi-partisanship, they wonder?