Monday, January 12, 2009

• Is Obama Right To Ignore Bush Transgressions?

President Bush has cloaked his term in the White House with a singular distinction of secrecy that would give Richard Nixon a case of acute envy. President Elect Obama has just indicated that he does not want to be, “looking backwards.” Is this an appropriate deflection for an incoming administration?

The eight-year imperial Presidency that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney have enjoyed, has been one long sequence of questionable and unexplained, but massively expensive events. Taxpayers have been patient as they watched an administration mislead them into a war whose astronomical costs may never be audited, and through which much questionable siphoning of cash has been deftly executed. Bush and Cheney friends, along with their companies including Halliburton Co. were seen to be taking advantage of hundreds of thousands of contracts. Taxpayers were not surprised when Halliburton’s Chairman announced he was moving headquarters offshore to Dubai. The endless fomenting suspicions were not appeased, they were irritated. Repeatedly, questionable corporate ethics were given a pass.

Obscene pictures taken in a prison they had never heard of also confused Americans. They were further conflicted in how they should feel with the detention of prisoners in Guantanamo, held indefinitely without due process. The discomfort was not really for the prisoners, but was due to a certain malaise stirring in the knowledge that while laws provide us protection against imprisonment without at least having had the benefit of due process, the Administration had managed to somehow circumvent the rules. Who might be next?

America was provided detailed explanations on the extraction of information from extrajudicial prisoners, through a particularly aggressive method, and “waterboarding” joined the English language. We have more recently wondered about the extent to which spying on our lives has actually occurred. Although we have moved through anxiety regarding terrorism, and then passed into annoyance on the invasion of our privacy, we are now slipping into a tunnel of suspicion that government attitude has shifted to an assumption that everyone is suspect until proven otherwise.

The Iraq war, the Iraqi reconstruction, and the countless available accesses to financial abuse and corruption, continue to make headlines. These reports do not exhaust our patience as much as they might have done prior to the current financial crisis overtaking our lives. The bombardment of bad news has to be prioritized. A $15 trillion debt trench has been dug by corporate and political mismanagement, with enabling help from very suspicious Congressional oversight.

Whatever Obama’s motives for not being emphatic or specific on digging out any wrong doing, the decision appears to be the right path for him to take, and his Presidency can be given a pass on this one. The problem is deep and wide, but it is not his. This conundrum is endemic across too many levels of the system from the White House to the Capitol, from the Pentagon to Wall Street, and from Iraq to Dubai. Taxpayers will have to pressure their elected Congress and the hired bureaucracy to deal vigorously with those who have trampled on laws, if accordant evidence of wrongdoing surfaces. The current administration and legislature cannot be given a pass. The country does not need a witch hunt, however, taxpayer outrage deserves a relief valve and the American Democracy can withstand the heat.

blog comments powered by Disqus