Thursday, February 12, 2009

Poll shows American support for investigations into Bush administration wrongdoings

This is a rather interesting Gallup poll to consider:

PRINCETON, NJ -- Earlier this week, Sen. Patrick Leahy called for a special commission to investigate possible government wrongdoing by the Bush administration in its anti-terror policies, as well as possible attempts to politicize the Justice Department through the firing of U.S. attorneys who were viewed as potentially disloyal to the administration. While Americans appear to support some kind of investigation into these matters, no more than 41% favor criminal probes.

These results are based on a Jan. 30-Feb. 1 USA Today/Gallup poll. In addition to Leahy's recent call for a "truth commission" that would investigate but not prosecute Bush administration officials, a House committee led by Rep. John Conyers is awaiting responses to subpoenas of former Bush administration officials regarding Bush-era policies and actions.

For each of three controversial actions or policies of the Bush administration, survey respondents were asked whether there should be a criminal investigation by the Justice Department or an investigation by an independent panel that would issue a report of findings but not seek any criminal charges, or whether neither should be done.

While no more than 41% of Americans favor a criminal investigation into any of the matters, at least 6 in 10 say there should be either a criminal investigation or an independent probe into all three. This includes 62% who favor some type of investigation into the possible use of torture when interrogating terrorism suspects, 63% who do so with respect to the possible use of telephone wiretaps without obtaining a warrant, and 71% who support investigating possible attempts to use the Justice Department for political purposes.

So far, President Obama has been reluctant to pursue such investigations, but Leahy and Conyers in particular are calling for an accounting of what happened on Bush's watch.

A couple of points here. It is obvious that the Obama administration doesn't want a congressional investigation into the Bush administration wrongdoings--George W. Bush is out of the White House, and President Obama wants Congress to concentrate on cleaning up the Bush administration messes with the reforms in the financial industry, housing, the economy, the frozen credit market, and such. There may also be a fear that, if the Obama administration concentrates heavily into investigations of the previous Bush administration, then President Obama may be on the receiving end of investigations by a successive Republican White House, or Congress, intent on exacting revenge against the Obama administration. Instead of political brinkmanship here, you could call this political fearmanship.

Unfortunately, President Obama is completely wrong here. Too many wrongdoings and criminality by the Bush administration have been exposed during the past eight years. We all know what those wrongdoings were--the Bush domestic spying program, the use of torture, the Valerie Plame outing, the politicization of the Justice Department, and the firing of the U.S. attorneys. As much as I would like to see criminal investigations into some of the top Bush administration officials--particularly Dick Cheney and Karl Rove--I seriously doubt that any criminal investigations, or indictments, will be handed down against these officials. Instead, I'll accept the independent, or congressional, investigations into the causes for these Bush wrongdoings, and what steps could be taken to stop a future administration from engaging in these same criminal acts. However, the American people are demanding these investigations, as per the Gallup poll.

One interesting detail here is, again, the partisanship that divides American opinions regarding the investigations into the Bush administration:

Perhaps not unexpectedly, a majority of Democratic identifiers favor a criminal probe into all three matters -- including 54% who do so with respect to warrantless wiretaps, 51% for the possible use of torture, and 52% for the firing of U.S. attorneys.

In contrast, Republicans are most likely to oppose any type of investigation, including a majority who say so in regard to the possible use of torture (54%) and warrantless wiretaps (56%). Republicans are more receptive to an investigation into possible efforts to politicize the Justice Department, with 24% favoring a criminal probe and 28% in favor of an independent panel report. Still, the greatest number (43%) of Republicans think there should be no investigation into the Justice Department matter.

Independents' views on all three matters fall in between those of Republicans and Democrats, with a majority favoring some type of investigation but (unlike Democrats) not a criminal probe.

There is not much to say here. Democrats are angry at the past eight years of Bush wrongdoing, and they want punishment enacted against the top Bush officials. Of course, the top three Bush wrongdoings are the domestic spying, torture, and U.S. attorney firings--all three have been written in the news media, and on liberal blogs. So it is now wonder that Democrats want criminal investigations enacted against the Bush administration officials. In contrast, the Republicans want these investigations to end. President Bush is out of the White House, so let's end the investigations. It is ironic that a majority of Republicans are against investigations into torture and domestic spying. I'm guessing that the Republicans want to cover up these potential Bush administration abuses, fearing a combination of criminal charges handed down against former Bush officials, and a further tarnishing of a failed Bush legacy. So the political partisanship continues on.

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