Monday, August 27, 2007

Exit the Criminal, Stage Right

So Alberto "Fredo" Gonzales -- serial perjurer, underminer of the constitution and abettor of torture -- has resigned.

On what the Democrats must do next: what Glenn Greenwald said. I'm not placing any bets, though, given their incredibly craven record to date.

But it seems to me that the other crucial thing here -- and this connects to the larger issue of starting the process of repairing the extraordinary damage that the Bush administration has done to the fabric of our country over the past six-and-three-quarter years* -- is that just because the criminal is leaving his job doesn't mean that his crimes have been in the slightest way accounted for. He -- like every other member of this most corrupt and malevolent of American administrations, from the highest to the lowest -- still needs to be held accountable. If his record of evasion and perjury is allowed to stand, then testimony before Congress will have been permanently reduced to not even a formality. If his record on executive power, and the criminal and unconstitutional programs (I'm thinking the surveillance programs here), is allowed to stand, the balance of power in our country will be permanently eroded. And if his record on torture is allowed to stand, we will continue to stand immoral and unjustified before the moral law, different only in degree, not kind, from any dictatorships we claim to oppose.

This is a larger point, as I said: but for now, let's make it about Gonzales: if we do not hold him accountable for the crimes he committed, and those he abetted, then our country will be permanently damaged even beyond what he has already done.

Gonzales is gone: but he must not be forgotten. Not yet. We still have work to do.

* Yes, I'm counting from November, 2000. I think we need to.


Rasselas said...

And if his record on torture is allowed to stand, we will continue to stand immoral and unjustified before the moral law, different only in degree, not kind, from any dictatorships we claim to oppose.

Easy there, Cato the Censor. You'll give yourself blog despair, and that's tough to clear up even with modern anti-inflammatories.

Isn't a long-awaited, long-predicted resignation, over and despite the Dubster's many statements of immovability, a concession -- and therefore a victory, if not a V-J Day-style shipboard surrender?

Consider whether the liberal blogswarm's obsession with "accountability" -- for politicians, pundits, journalists, that guy who tred on the grass -- belongs less to a moral cause than to a case of inter- and intra-generational conflict, and whether that is why the blogswarm's moral language finds little purchase in non-blogging minds.

Stephen said...

You'll give yourself blog despair...

That ship's sailed, my friend.

But as for accountability: no, I disagree; I think it is really, genuinely important. I don't have time to spell it out in full detail right this second, but the basic point is that we are setting standards & precedents that must not be allowed to stand -- about executive power, about what moral standards our country adheres to, about the rule of law, etc, etc. So I think your trivializing of it is quite misguided.


Stephen said...

PS, I say a bit more about the issue (perhaps not enough to answer skepticism, but more than I can say right this minute) in this blog post right here: Too many crimes for even impeachment to suffice.

And as far as this finding purchase in non-blogging minds... check out these two Glenn Greenwald posts (which I linked to recently) about why the Democratic congress is unpopular, and on the myth that the public doesn't like/want investigations. I'm not so sure that you're right. I just think that accountability doesn't find purchase in the minds of the DC establishment... for very predictable reasons of class and group solidarity.


Rasselas said...

From time to time I worry about appearing to be an apologist for the Administration, but I think I'm just a cynic, rather than someone with a criminal taste for seeing wicked men get away with things, though that too has occurred to me.

When I read your "Too many crimes..." post, the cynical response was the first that came to mind: How can we not impeach...? "By not getting enough votes." It seems quixotic, and likely only to lead to recurrent disappointment, to look to a (or the, I suppose) political process for vindication of moral propositions. As romantic, in its way, as looking to the political process to confirm the evidence of one's senses.

I told a friend a while ago that I'd happily consent to pardons, medals, pensions and houses on Lac LĂ©man for the Dubster, Cheney et al., if that would end the war, and I see no reason to change my mind. There are enough past examples of men getting away with things done in office that a few more won't throw civilization to the wolves.

That's partly why I've tried to stay away from political blogs for a good part of the past year or so: I know my thoughts are out of tune. But the will to punish doesn't seem worth indulging, particularly when it creaks under the burden of so many individual complaints and demands that imply that "getting" the Dubster and Cheney will make up for every curled lip and rejection slip, as much as for the futile casualties.

Stephen said...


I don't think it's about punishment, but about making sure it doesn't happen again. I, too, would trade pardons for all for an end to the war... with grievous concern that this would make the next war more likely.

Anyway, for a non-punishment based alternative, see this Mark Schmitt piece here (which was included in my just-posted link round-up). I'd be on board for that. I just think it's extremely unlikely. At this point, punishment is the only model US politics has for dealing with making these actions non-precedent setting. But if there was another way, I'd take it.