Martin Longman got me thinking in his article, An Actually Weak President. It’s about how Dick Cheney goes around calling President Obama “weak,” while no one does the same to Bush the Younger, even though everyone knew that Cheney was the person actually in charge. He said, “You’ll know that the current president is as weak as Bush when students line up to protest former vice-president Joe Biden and completely ignore Obama.” That’s a good point. But I’m most interested in his question, “[W]hy do people have such an easy time condemning Cheney [of war crimes], or even Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and Rice, and such a hard time condemning George W Bush?”
His answer to that is represented in the “weak president” hypothesis. I don’t really go along with that. The problem is that most people are pretty forgiving. As long as people’s war crimes are in the past, they’re willing to let them slide. But Cheney is so vocal about it—so in your face. Just this last week, Cheney told students at American University, “If I would have to do it all over again, I would. The results speak for themselves.” If Cheney were in prison (where he ought to be), that kind of statement would never fly with the parole board.
This is why all along, I thought we should have a truth and reconciliation commission. Obama’s idea of looking forward was a joke. I am not a vindictive person. I am extremely forgiving. But people do not grow when they don’t admit error. And the same goes for governments and countries. It was and still is important for America to publicly admit that its government did torture. Instead, we pretend that it never did happen. And that means we not only have to listen to Cheney go around telling us that we are only safe because he used “enhanced interrogation techniques” (torture), but we will do the same thing again in a moment of crisis.
I also disagree with Longman in that many of us have no problem whatsoever blaming Bush. The truth is that I’ve never believed Bush’s “aw-shucks” routine. While I don’t believe he is especially smart, he is wily. And ultimately, he was in charge. We saw in the last two years of his presidency, when he pushed Cheney aside. If Bush were out there once a month explaining how it was necessary to “get tough” on the bad guys, I’d talk more about him. But he’s made the smart decision to paint and shut up.
I’m sure that I’m pretty much in agreement with Longman. I’d really like to shut up all of the neoconservatives. And I don’t just mean those in the administration. If America had at least admitted wrong, these people wouldn’t be allowed to walk around as conquering heroes. They would at least have to admit that they represent a minority viewpoint that had been repudiated. But that was not to be. And it is especially galling given that if the political parties had been reversed, I feel certain that administration officials would have gone to prison. So the kind treatment of the present administration will not be reciprocated. In fact, we already see this with the House Republicans just itching for any chance to impeach.