Sidetracking the Torture Debate
During my recent blogging downtime, I haven't been paying quite as close attention to politics as I had been, and I've got to admit that I'm a bit confused about the Republicans' recent tactics on torture. The CIA released a memo claiming that Nancy Pelosi was briefed on its torture tactics way back in 2003. Pelosi claims that she wasn't. So the GOP has taken the opportunity to pile on Pelosi and implicate her in whatever backwash all this torture has. One of the strongest arguments to this effect appeared in The Wall Street Journal under Karl Rove's byline: "If she knew what was going on and did nothing, does that make her an accessory to a crime of torture, as many Democrats are calling enhanced interrogation?"
Does he really want to go there? You don't need to follow that line of argument very far to see that it can't end well for Rove and his compatriots. Apparently, the idea is some sort of blackmail--if you implicate us, we'll implicate you back! That line might have some juice if being an accessory were worse than being a perpetrator. Matt Yglesias points out what else is wrong with this tactic:
But in their zeal to score a tactical win, the right has made a truth commission more likely not less likely. Obama wanted to avoid a backward-looking focus on torture in part because it distracted from his legislative agenda. But if we're going to be looking backward anyway, thanks to conservatives' insistence on complaining about Pelosi, then the move forward strategy lacks a rationale. And far from forcing a standoff in which Pelosi will abandon her support for an investigation, the right has forced her into a corner from which she can't give in to moderate Democrats' opposition to such a move without looking like she's cravenly attempting to save her own skin.
There's no sign that Pelosi or anyone else is backing off the truth-commission idea. And, indeed, by suggesting that Pelosi could be a target of an investigation, conservatives have helped cleanse the idea of the odor of victor's justice.
That last line raises another question. When can we expect David Broder going to take the Republicans to task for scapegoating Pelosi out of vengeance?