Saturday, April 11, 2009

What About the Rule of Law?

The most recent USA/Gallup survey in February, 2009, that polled Americans about their views concerning whether they favored investigations into torture allegations elicited the following response:

39% favor criminal investigation

24% favor an independent panel

34% don't want anything

3% had no opinion

Because so many Americans want an investigation into the well documented allegations of Bush administration torture and the fact that the biggest share of those people favor a criminal investigation, it was not surprising to see a number of questions about torture appear in this past Friday's Washington Post chat with David Broder

A description about David Broder on the Post Writers Group website says:

..."while the journalistic pack is pestering a flack, Broder is out with the people; no one gets a better sense of the pulse of American opinion."

So what happens when you have a chat between the public and a journalist, who's bio makes the claim that he's in tune with the public? What happens when that "in tune" journalist meets a public that overwhelmingly favors investigations into the Bush administration torture allegations and where 39% of the 63% who favor investigations, favors criminal investigations?

Sadly, this is what you get from Broder:

David S. Broder: I'm not familiar with what the Brits are doing or if they have their own Abu Ghraibs to investigate. But I understand the reluctance to open a wide-ranging probe of past practices. It seems to me we are better off focusing on cleaning up the policies and practices for the future than trying to settle scores for past actions

David S. Broder: Yours is a perfectly legitimate point of view. But I have become convinced that there is not much learning that takes place from one administration to the next; otherwise, we would not have repeated scandals and coverups in Washington. So I think we're better off putting our focus on the policies (and people) a new president is putting into place.

David S. Broder: Again, I understand and acknowledge the desire to punish wrongdoers and hold people accountable. But in the current circumstances, I think both the White House and the Justice Department have bigger fish to fry.

David S. Broder: I think the "truth commission" idea of Senator Leahy is a very promising one, provided procedures were fair and the duration reasonable.

David S. Broder: Your motives may be pure; I accept that you simply want to know the truth and let the chips fall where they may. But I run into a lot of people here who really want to see Bush--or, even better, Cheney--standing in the dock, struggling to stay out of the slammer. I remain of the view that we have better things to do.

Alexandria VA: Isn't it ironic that about 3 questions so far have been about "the rule of law" and that Bush and his people should have been investigated and punished? How come no one seems to remember that in 2001, President Bush wanted to swipe the table clean in spite of the massive push to go after Bill Clinton for the alledged selling off of pardons? Isn't it just more likely that no incoming administration wants to be dragged down into the bad behavior of the former presidents but go forward to set their new agenda?

David S. Broder: Yes. I think you've got it exactly right.

While I've  known for a long time that David Broder values bi-partisanship over everything else I was actually shocked by his utter lack of knowledge in these exhanges and his extreme resistance to holding those who authorized torture accountable for their crimes. Evidently the "Dean of Washington journalists" isn't even aware of the most basic of information reported about the torture of  prisoners or he just doesn't care. Actually I find it quite stunning that the readers appear to be far more informed than the "journalist" - check out their excellent questions. After reading these exchanges you get the impression that once David Broder saw the Abu Ghraib story he was permanently frozen in time - mentally shut down - no longer able to see or hear anything else that was reported beyond the initial Abu Ghraib story or maybe it was just that he no longer wanted to know.

How can you be a journalist working at one of the major newspapers in the country and appear to be so ignorant of the biggest story to come along since Watergate? How can you call yourself a journalist and not even want to have an investigation into these serious allegations unless they fit into some artificial timeframe that meets your defintion of  a "reasonable duration"? What does that even mean? And how can you call yourself a journalist if you think just because some people don't have a "pure motive" when they call for prosecution that we shouldn't follow the rule of law? What does a person's motive have to do with whether there is a legitimate reason for investigation and prosecution? And finally, how could a journalist, who's actually read the ICRC report, say "amen" to this person's comment?

Houston TX: Do you remember that during the impeachment of Bill Clinton, former president Gerald Ford said that in hindsight, he was correct in giving Nixon the pardon? So with New York, and Gaitersburg, and Franconia wanting the head of President Bush, are they really ready to have Obama's first term sidelined by the TV trials of George W. Bush, and all those naughty Republicans day afte day?

David S. Broder: Amen. And goodbye for today. I'm going back to work. Enjoyed the conversation as always.

Most of the people in the chat who asked questions about torture clearly favored criminal prosecutions just like those Americans in the USA/Gallup poll favored criminal prosecutions. But the bio about David Broder was way off the mark. It's pretty clear that Broder doesn't have a clue about what the public wants and quite frankly, it's pretty apparent from this chat that Broder either doesn't have a clue about the facts that have been reported about the torture story or he just doesn't care and that's just unacceptable for a person claiming to be a journalist.

David Broder talks about "Settling Scores" - "Pure Motives" -"Bigger Fish to Fry" - "Better Things to Do" in an effort to distract us and possibly himself from focusing on the real issues at hand:  the failure of our government to follow the rule of law when they authorized illegal torture, the failure of our Justice Department to investigate clear crimes and our collective failure to challenge the cover-up of these crimes. 

For people like "journalist," David Broder,  evidently the most important thing is, not finding out the truth about serious crimes committed in our names but, making sure that the cover-up of those crimes continues so that the new president's "bi-partisan" agenda isn't inconvenienced by the messy business of protecting and defending our democracy. With this kind of status quo protecting mindset I doubt very seriously  if Broder will ever get nominated, much less win another Pulitizer for writing commentary, like he did back in the 1970s. 

**While reading digby's Hullaballo blog  tonight I clicked on a link that took me to  Greg Sargent's blog. And lo and behold there was a post talking about Broder. Evidently other people were amazed at the Broder chat on Friday too. Check it out.

Updated: 4/13/09


  1. Broder is so contemptible that I can hardly find the words for my disgust. This, particularly, I "like":
    "But I have become convinced that there is not much learning that takes place from one administration to the next; otherwise, we would not have repeated scandals and coverups in Washington."
    So we dispense with justice? That absence of "learning" is the product of the refusal to investigate/prosecute those "scandals" and "coverups," also known as crimes.
    Good post, pmorlan.

  2. Thanks. I agree with you about that particular comment. Unbelievable!

  3. P.S.
    I'm timothy3 but couldn't figure out how to make that clear with the options available here. And, I should add, I think you contribute a great deal to UT.

  4. Thanks again timothy3. I appreciate both of your comments. I just started writing this blog and you're the first to actually make a comment about something I've written because I really haven't had very many visitors. I guess I need to learn how to promote it better.

  5. Says timothy3:
    About promotion, I think leaving your URL at UT, Wapo, the NYTimes, etc., is the most effective way. That's how I usually find new blogs. This is particularly useful when you leave comments that are interesting, as yours are (and I don't say that just to flatter). Cocktailhag, for instance, leaves his URL as often as he can and he generates around 20 comments, on average, per post.

  6. Thanks for the tip. I'll start doing that.

  7. I'm never sure whether we're listening to cynicism or ignorance in statements like those from Broder. Can someone read, eg, the ICRC report (and that's only one example) and remain so blithely above the horror?

    Thanks for this, pmorlan. (PS: I followed you from FDL.)

  8. Thanks, skdadl. I think a lot of these media people like Broder really don't want to know. I think it's easier for them to continue to pretend that this is just some garden variety political attack that is above them. If they actually read the ICRC report they would have to face up to the fact that they've been wrong and that is one thing that they fear the most.


* If you post using the "anonymous" profile you can still include whatever name you wish to use at the end of your comment.