Was Democratic vice presidential candidate Joseph Biden serious last week when he said that an Obama administration would be willing to prosecute Bush administration officials for their supposed crimes? According to a video posted on YouTube, an audience member at a Florida campaign event asked:
I’m not going to say ‘yes we can,’ I’m going to say ‘yes we will,’ OK, and when we do, I’d like to know if you guys are going to pursue the violations that have been made against our Constitution by the present administration and restore the Constitution to its rightful place in our society?
Yes. Now look, here’s the deal. My colleagues can tell you, particularly Henry Waxman, one of the things that happens, is, you know there’s a phrase in the law, those of you who are lawyers, sometimes you’re estopped from being able to pursue something, meaning your failing to have act [sic] in the past precludes you having the right to act in the future. We will not be estopped from pursuing any criminal offense that’s occurred. Now here’s what happening: Patrick Leahy and the Judiciary Committee and Henry Waxman from California and his oversight committee as well as John Conyers and his Judiciary Committee, what they’re doing is they’re doing the right thing. They’re not making false accusations about anything. They’re not making unfounded accusations. They’re collecting data, they are subpoenaeing records, they’re building the file, and they’re going through it and we’ll go through it with a finetooth comb. If there has been a basis upon which you could pursue someone for a criminal violation, they will be pursued. Not out of vengeance, not out of retribution. Out of the need to preserve the notion that no one, no one, no attorney general, no president, no one, is above the law. It sounds trite.
Obama said something similar in April. The Philadelphia Daily News’s Will Bunch asked Obama the following question (as lifted from Bunch’s column):
“I know you’ve talked about reconciliation and moving on, but there’s also the issue of justice, and a lot of people — certainly around the world and certainly within this country — feel that crimes were possibly committed” regarding torture, rendition, and illegal wiretapping. I wanted to know how whether his Justice Department “would aggressively go after and investigate whether crimes have been committed.”
What I would want to do is to have my Justice Department and my Attorney General immediately review the information that’s already there and to find out are there inquiries that need to be pursued. I can’t prejudge that because we don’t have access to all the material right now. I think that you are right, if crimes have been committed, they should be investigated. You’re also right that I would not want my first term consumed by what was perceived on the part of Republicans as a partisan witch hunt because I think we’ve got too many problems we’ve got to solve.
So this is an area where I would want to exercise judgment — I would want to find out directly from my Attorney General — having pursued, having looked at what’s out there right now — are there possibilities of genuine crimes as opposed to really bad policies. And I think it’s important– one of the things we’ve got to figure out in our political culture generally is distinguishing between really dumb policies and policies that rise to the level of criminal activity. You know, I often get questions about impeachment at town hall meetings and I’ve said that is not something I think would be fruitful to pursue because I think that impeachment is something that should be reserved for exceptional circumstances. Now, if I found out that there were high officials who knowingly, consciously broke existing laws, engaged in coverups of those crimes with knowledge forefront, then I think a basic principle of our Constitution is nobody above the law — and I think that’s roughly how I would look at it.
Later, Biden seemed to distance himself from his previous answer when a Fox News personality asked him if an Obama administration would prosecute Bush administration officials. According to the Chicago Tribune’s The Swamp blog,
“That is not true,” Biden said to a question of pursuing criminal charges against members of the Bush administration. “I don’t know where that report is coming from.
“What is true is the United States Congress is trying to preserve records on questions that relate to whether or not the law has been violated by anyone,” Biden said. “No one is talking about President Bush. I never heard anyone mention President Bush in that context.
“No one is talking about pursuing President Bush criminally.”
So was Biden just attempting to shore up support among the Daily Kos-Code Pink lunatic fringe of his party? Who knows.
The Constitution provides a simple remedy for an out-of-control chief executive: impeachment. Congress has, so far, failed to pursue this option. Going after a president once he leaves office is the way they do it in banana republics.
In 2006 the so-called International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration found President Bush and his administration guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. One of the “jurists” in the show trial was Ann Wright, the former U.S. army officer who quit the State Department to pursue a career as an anti-war activist. Wright helped fellow peacenik Cindy Sheehan run Camp Casey, the protest site outside the president’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. A preface to the verdict was written by Marxist historian Howard Zinn.
At the opening of the faux proceeding in New York City’s Riverside Church, a famed sanctuary of the lunatic left, Center for Constitutional Rights president Michael Ratner, a communist who wrote a book praising Che Guevara, laid out what he hoped this bit of political theater would accomplish:
It’s a real opening for us but it is not simply to go back to the normal. It’s not simply to save a remnant of democracy. The malady is much deeper than that. We need a radical transformation of our society. My hopes for today and for the future are that the truth will arouse resistance and with resistance there will be some change. I mean resistance of every sort, mobilizing, protesting, disobeying and disobedience.
Maybe Ratner should consider a second career as a community organizer.