Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Number 9 Dream: Unprecedented Preemptive Blanket Pardons

Salon features a piece by Mark Benjamin which claims there is "growing talk" in Washington that President Bush "may be considering" an "unprecedented 'blanket' pardon" for "people involved in his administration's brutal interrogation policies." One could write a dissertation on what is said, and not said, in this rather peculiar, but equally unenlightening, bit of "news." The talk is "growing" is it? Well, what the heck, quote 10 or 11 credible, intelligent, fair-minded persons engaging in such talk! Bush "may be considering" such an act? Why would he not be? What is the cause of the consideration, if it really exists? Hint: the complaints of those concerned about "brutal interrogation policies." Ah, there's the rub. The concern is not so much about the policies as it is that pardons might rob someone of future opportunities to make political hay by feigning concern about such policies - in the Bush administration and no other - via show trials and investigations. Even then, would critics of the administration really lament the appearance of such pardons? Of course not. They would be celebrated wildly as clear "proof" of anything and everything. And they would certainly save the President's critics the expenditure of a great deal of time, energy and effort that, in all likelihood, would have very little payoff.

This much is clear as Benjamin describes the "Obama Plan." It would "emphasize fact-finding investigation over prosecution" (Translation: it would revel in slander, innuendo and partisan demonization. You know, the politics of change). Of course, the plan would not "rule out future prosecutions," but would "delay"(!) such decisions until "all essential facts" could be "unearthed." (Translation: there is a sense that such "investigations" would be so sensational that they could be easily stretched out for an extended period of time, and would not really require substantive findings or convictions - See HUAC). Indeed, Benjamin says "any decision on prosecutions probably would not come until a second Obama presidential term."

But, in a more sober-minded passage Benjamin writes:

"But few think prosecutions are realistic, given the formidable legal hurdles and the huge policy problems competing for Obama's attention. Among them is the complicated task of closing down the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, which Obama advisors say is a priority. Some observers outside the Obama camp are also questioning how much Democrats really want exposed with regard to interrogation, since top Democrats in Congress were briefed in secret on some of the harshest tactics used by the CIA and appear to have done little, or perhaps nothing, to stop them."
Yes, what did these top Democrats know, and when did they know it?! Lord, critics of the President would be quite fortunate if that were all that lay between them and their dreams! It is clear that blanket pardons are not suspected and feared so much as they are desired, craved, longed for. Indeed, Benjamin is already warming up, ready to criticize the President's attempt to "seek to frame" a blanket pardon "as a preemptive strike against wrongheaded, partisan retribution" and his piece quotes a virtual Who's Not Who in the clemency-related scholarly community willing to outline all sort of horrific scenarios.

Apparently none of Benjamin's scholarly team mentioned that predictions of preemptive pardons have been a feature of other administrations and, so far, the predictees 0-for-ever. Now that is "news." See the Salon piece here.

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