The Vermont Democrat, who is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, pitched the idea last week during a speech at Georgetown University, saying the commission would not pursue criminal indictments but would launch a fact-finding mission to "learn the truth" about the Bush years.
He said the commission would strike the "middle ground" between those who want to prosecute Bush officials for alleged violations of civil liberties and the politicization of the Justice Department and those who want to resist any inquiries into the past eight years. Leahy has since launched an online petition that has garnered more than 26,000 signatures.
26,000 whole signatures? I seem to recall a petition I signed against the "stimulus" package he just voted for that had almost 500,000 signatures. That didn't matter to the Senator, so I have difficulty believing that a petition with a paltry 26K signatures would sway him.
Some Democrats say the proposal is no good because it doesn't go far enough. Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island said officials should not be "afraid" to use the Department of Justice to investigate torture allegations and punish anyone who broke the law.
"I don't know if we require a formal new commission to do that," Reed told MSNBC.
Bob Fertik, co-founder of Democrats.com, wrote on his Web site: "I truly do not understand the distinct minority of 'liberals' who would rather 'learn the truth' about George Bush's most heinous crimes than prosecute them. And when I read the 'arguments' for a 'Truth Commission,' all I see are fallacies."
These people still can't get past "Bush Lied, People Died," and "No Blood For Oil." In an extraordinary time, and extraordinary man stepped up and made our country safer. He was the right president for the situation. He made some poor choices here and there (especially towards the end), but even Democrats were glad Gore or Kerry didn't win.
Leahy said the commission could look at matters ranging from the firings of U.S. attorneys, interrogation techniques used on terrorism suspects and the authorization of warrantless wiretapping.
A poll conducted last week by USA Today/Gallup found that nearly two-thirds of Americans polled want some kind of investigation into whether the Bush administration allowed terrorism suspects to be tortured. But they were split on what form that investigation should take.
Thirty-eight percent said a criminal investigation would be best; 24 percent called for an independent panel. Thirty-four percent said neither option should be pursued.
What's funny about the poll is that even gallup.com says there's no mandate for a commission. They did have a pretty good breakdown of the percentages of who wants what:
What they didn't have was a breakdown of how many republicans or democrats they talked to. No sampling data. The closest they had was this:
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,027 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Jan. 30-Feb. 1, 2009. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points.
Of course, Sen Russ Feingold came to Leahy's defense saying:
"Getting all the facts out about what happened over the last eight years is a crucial part of restoring the rule of law," Feingold said. "There needs to be accountability for wrongdoing by the Bush administration, including the illegal warrantless wiretapping and interrogation programs. We cannot simply sweep these assaults on the rule of law under the rug."Of course not. Even if they were allowed under the fisa courts, or allowed in the patriot act, that's no excuse. Bush was evil! He tricked us in to voting for these things!
In an interesting twist, Obama has actually been cold to the idea of investigating, but he has used his typical language that can be later changed to meet the current trend.
But other Democrats, including President Obama, have suggested that an investigation of the Bush administration would be too divisive. Obama declined to endorse the idea of a "truth commission" at his prime-time press conference last week.
"My view is also that nobody's above the law, and if there are clear instances of wrongdoing, that people should be prosecuted just like any ordinary citizen, but that generally speaking, I'm more interested in looking forward than I am in looking backwards," Obama said.
So if someone is obviously guilty, we can give them a fair trial, then hang them. The purpose of the commission is to determine that guilt in the eyes of the press, before any trials begin. I know that he understands that. His statement is designed to relax opponents of the commission so there will be less push back when it starts showing up for votes. "Look, we don't want to persecu...prosecute anyone, we just want to know what really happened in the Bush white house."
So before you let your guard down, remember that any time someone calls it a "truth" whatever, what they want is not "THE truth," but "MY truth."