Today at a speech at Georgetown University, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy called for a truth commission to investigate the previous eight years of the George W. Bush administration.
Leahy called his proposal a middle ground between prosecuting or letting the Bush administration off of the hook, “One path to that goal would be a reconciliation process and truth commission. We could develop and authorize a person or group of people universally recognized as fair minded, and without axes to grind. Their straightforward mission would be to find the truth. People would be invited to come forward and share their knowledge and experiences, not for purposes of constructing criminal indictments, but to assemble the facts.”
Leahy continued, “If needed, such a process could involve subpoena powers, and even the authority to obtain immunity from prosecutions in order to get to the whole truth. Congress has already granted immunity, over my objection, to those who facilitated warrantless wiretaps and those who conducted cruel interrogations. It would be far better to use that authority to learn the truth. “
He later suggested that a truth commission would help the nation move on, “Rather than vengeance, we need a fair-minded pursuit of what actually happened. Sometimes the best way to move forward is getting to the truth, finding out what happened, so we can make sure it does not happen again. When I came to the Senate, the Church Committee was working to expose the excesses of an earlier era. Its work helped ensure that in years to come, we did not repeat the mistakes of the past. We need to think about whether we have arrived at such a time, again. We need to come to a shared understanding of the failures of the recent past.”
From the perspective of good governance, this is a wonderful idea, but partisan politics always seems to come ahead of doing what is right. Outside of Nixon, no presidential administration was as secretive, and operated in as much darkness as that of George W. Bush. It is important for the nation to know exactly how far the abuses of the Bush administration went. However, most Democrats would rather let the past be the past. They don’t have the stomach for the partisan fight which would ensue.
Democrats still remember well how Republicans were hurt by their attempt to get Bill Clinton out of office. They don’t want to create anything that would serve as a distraction for the new administration. For this reason more than any other, you can be certain that there will not be a truth commission examining the misdeeds, and Democratic complacency, for much of the Bush years.