Washington Matters


No Big Congressional Probes -- Not Now, Anyway


The Obama administration's release of Justice Department memos laying out the legal justification and rationale for the "enhanced interrogation techniques" used on prisoners of Guantanamo Bay has really stirred up civil rights advocates who want a big congressional investigation to look into possible wrongdoing over the last six years. At the same time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants a big probe into who caused the financial meltdown.

Please. Not now.  Both may be legitimate issues for further examination, but not by Congress at this time, when there's so much else on the agenda and when either investigation is certain to further pollute the already poisonous political atmosphere. 

Obama coupled the release of the Bush-era memos with a vow not to prosecute those CIA interrogators who were taking their cues from the memos. His chief of staff went further Sunday, saying there would be no prosecution of the Justice Department employees who wrote the memos. Many Democrats are furious, convinced their suspicions and mistrust about the Bush administration were borne out and feeling betrayed by Obama. Big liberal voices, such as the New York Times editorial page, have also called for an investigation. 

But Obama is the one making sense, arguing that with so many pressing problems, this is not the time for the administration or Congress to waste effort and energy and political capital on a vindictive look backwards. If there must be a probe, let an outside group do it -- one put together by a Republican with impeccable credentials. John McCain has been mentioned as the right person and that would be a good choice. But given that Obama has clearly reversed the interrogation policy, someone needs to explain the point to me.  

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As for Pelosi's idea of a congressional investigation of the financial meltdown, well -- doesn't she have enough to do? Sure, we need as much information as possible on the underlying causes of the problem in order to come up with solutions, but a half dozen congressional committees are already trying to do that. Pelosi's call for a big bicameral probe to figure out who's to blame sounds too much like a political witch hunt. Only when we've escaped this mess, can we dispassionately figure out exactly what happened, and then the focus should be on making sure it doesn't happen again.

It's becoming increasingly obvious that achieving any level of bipartisan cooperation in Washington is near to impossible, mostly because no one is willing to compromise on core issues. But that doesn't mean we should give up, let alone go so far as to embrace measures certain to make it harder. That's not what the majority of Americans voted for.

 




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