In humble attempt at casting this in the tradition of Socrates, a (slightly altered) quote:

"The unexamined vote is not worth casting."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Looking Back to Move Forward

I wanted to write a post highlighting parts of President Obama's kicking inauguration speech that resonated with me, but will have to throw that up in a few days (and will then have to try to get out of the habit of putting stuff up here (possibly)--too much going on these days!). But I just read a crucial piece in The American Prospect, sent my way by my wonderful Aunt in Greece--she often has a better pulse on life a la American politics than many of us here at home thanks to ubiquitous news availability. The point of the article is summed up in its last, simple sentence, as it relates to various grievances with the Bush Administration and the financial industry:

"Sometimes, a rearview mirror is just what's needed to help see the road
The article is called "Truth, Reconciliation, and Obama: How should Obama deal with Bush's legacy?" and it's by Robert Kuttner, co-editor of The American Prospect. The two paragraphs below, taken from the article, cut to the quick of the issue (the first dealing with constitutional Bush Administration abuses and the second with the financial industry):

"...[I]t is not quite enough for President Obama to simply reverse a series
of Bush executive orders. The abuse of constitutional powers under Bush was so
extreme that some kind of high-profile reckoning is required. It may even
require trial and punishment of some high-level offenders, so that we are not
left with a legacy of officially sanctioned torture in which only the lowest
level G.I.'s were left to take the fall. At the very least, a public accounting
of constitutionally dubious uses of executive power by some kind of prestigious
commission that recommends safeguards for the future would help put closure on
the era and prevent a repetition...

Before the financial reforms of the New Deal could proceed, it took the
masterful investigations of what came to be known as the Pecora Committee
(actually the Senate Banking and Currency Committee) in 1933 and 1934. By laying
bare the abuses and educating the public as to what had occurred (and this was
before live TV coverage), Pecora laid the political groundwork for enactment of
what had previously been considered impossibly radical reforms. These included
bringing securities markets under strict federal regulation for the first time
-- an achievement largely undone by the regulatory default of recent
decades...What Congress needs is a select committee with wide ranging powers to
investigate just what occurred, so that reforms will be strong enough to prevent
a repetition. Radical reform always requires public education and mobilization.
Sometimes, a rearview mirror is just what's needed to help see the road

Hear, hear--and as Kuttner also notes, "This process should not be undertaken lightly. The Whitewater persecution and the impeachment of Bill Clinton was political farce. Yet the Watergate investigations of Richard Nixon culminating in an impeachment and a presidential resignation were not divisive; they were clarifying and unifying. So it is not simple 'recrimination' to come to terms with historical abominations." I'm personally not sure if I think Obama will take a strong, while balanced approach to this--I hope so, and think there's indication in some of his thoughts and action that he may.

On a related note, I saw that this post on The Nation's website mentions an attempt to address some issues with the handling of the US Attorney firings under the Bush Administration:

"Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. issued a
subpoena to Karl Rove requiring him to testify regarding his role in the Bush
Administration's politicization of the Department of Justice, including the US
Attorney firings and the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.
The subpoena was issued pursuant to authority granted in H.R. 5 (111th
Congress), and calls for Mr. Rove to appear at deposition on Monday, February 2,
2009. Mr. Rove has previously refused to appear in response to a Judiciary
Committee subpoena, claiming that even former presidential advisers cannot be
compelled to testify before Congress. That 'absolute immunity' position was
supported by then-President Bush, but it has been rejected by U.S. District
Judge John Bates and President Obama has previously dismissed the claim as
'completely misguided.'

'I have said many times that I will carry this investigation forward to
its conclusion, whether in Congress or in court, and today's action is an
important step along the way,' said Mr. Conyers. Noting that the change in
administration may impact the legal arguments available to Mr. Rove in this
long-running dispute, Mr. Conyers added 'Change has come to Washington, and I
hope Karl Rove is ready for it. After two years of stonewalling, it's time for
him to talk.' "

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