In response to the news of Yoo and Bybee’s exoneration and of the shoddiness of the Justice Department’s investigation, a smart reader writes to me, “As for the Holder Justice Department, it’s a perfect reflection of the Obama White House.” I think this is precisely right and important to keep in mind.
There is a tendency in reporting and punditry, fostered by the Obama spin machine, to treat Eric Holder as an independent agent, and his Department’s ill-advised policy decisions as larks, discrete from and unrelated to the Obami’s agenda. But this is wrong. First, none of the policy calls or the investigations, including the Yoo/Bybee witch hunt, were at odds with Obama’s own views and public utterances. It is not as if the Justice Department came up with the idea of closing Guantanamo, treating terrorists as ordinary criminals, or engaging in a vendetta against the Bush administration. These ideas were all part of Obama’s campaign rhetoric and his professed agenda from the earliest days of his administration. So rather than a rogue Justice Department, we have one that facilitates and enables the Obami’s worst instincts.
But the Yoo/Bybee investigation is illustrative of the Obama White House in other ways: the hyper-partisanship, the disregard for facts and careful analysis, the tendency to ignore critics and blindly follow a predetermined course of action, and the need to make an embarrassing about-face when it all comes crumbling down. That’s what happened in the OPR investigation and what we’ve seen in many other contexts as well — from Iran policy to health-care reform. Hillary Clinton’s “ideology is so yesterday” statement was meant as a slur on the Bush administration. But it is Obama and also his intensely politicized Justice Department who are blinded by ideology and, frankly, by a fixation on repudiating Obama’s predecessor. These things never end well, as we saw with the OPR investigation, for those caught in the snare of revenge.
The Democrats want a hearing on the Yoo/Bybee investigation? I say, bring it on! A full discussion and exploration of all of this and more would be enlightening.