January 24, 2009

The panel of Bob Woodward, Kelly O'Donnell, Anne Kornblut and Howard Fineman making excuses for the Obama administration and Congress if there are no prosecutions for torture committed by the Bush administration.

Matthews: How do you read that...what he just said?

Woodward: No. In other words he's not going to, he doesn't want investigations. I mean if, first of all in some of these things, it's so ambiguous and uh, he has got to get beyond the past. He does not want to create the feeling, which in a sense this week he did create by saying he's going to close Guantanamo, that the war on terror is over. It is not over. What he said is some of the tactics, namely torture and harsh interrogation tactics are gone but the war continues and if there is a, some sort of perpetual investigation of these things the message will be we're going soft and I tell you those in the intelligence world and the military and I think Obama himself doesn't want to send that message.

Matthews: Well let's talk about the Republicans on the Hill. What are they worried, aren't they trying to hold Eric Holder's feet to the fire and say "Promise you won't launch an investigation as our new Attorney General".

O'Donnell: Well one of the problems is if they do dig back into all of these things you do lose some of the Republicans support and President Obama's trying to reach out. You also reinforce what detractors of the Bush/Cheney years already think. So there's very little political upside. And so Eric Holder has been certainly tested and they definitely, Republicans definitely want to be able to feel like they can stick with their strong principle of defense without having to worry about digging back into some of those things.

Matthews: Yeah. Anne obviously the people on the left, the netroots people, John Conyers up on the Hill, they want action. They want some kind of at least an extra-legal kind of truth and reconciliation commission like you had in South Africa that doesn't prosecute but does investigate.

Kornblut: And yet we haven't heard any signal from Obama or the White House itself that they would authorize that, encourage it. Even something that would be as sort of as benign as a truth and reconciliation commission, every indication is they want to leave that to reporters, historians. They want to move on, you know the Hill can do what the Hill can do, but they're not behind it.

Matthews: Well why did we prosecute people at Abu Ghraib for abusing prisoners if we're not going to prosecute people who may have authorized that kind of treatment?

Fineman: It is an issue. But Obama has to run the country and he and the leaders of the Democratic Party on the Hill have said "It's not worth the cost". I mean I know that Harry Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate wants no parts of this. Whatever John Conyers is going to do on the House side, he's going to do and you'll hear a lot of noise from him and maybe some investigations. But it's not going to be backed up by the Democratic leadership in Congress. It just isn't.


Woodward: Well who would you investigate and prosecute? I mean the people who did these interrogations and so forth believed with good reason they had authority from the President.

Matthews: They had orders.

Woodward: Now you know it's too late to impeach Bush. It's over.

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