Not the Version He Had in Mind

Mara Liasson gave her take on Fox News Sunday on what happened with our president last week in the interrogation memo frenzy:

 I think he was, as is his instinct, searching for common ground.  He had this pressure from the left — “You can’t let them get away, the Bush administration people” — and then you had his instincts, which is, “We have to look forward, not back.  Let’s not jeopardize our domestic agenda.  Let’s not create this horrible partisan warfare.”

So she opts for the explanation that Obama is a spineless politician who is buffeted by whomever shouts the loudest. And he doesn’t have the nerve to publicly make the call himself.  That might be right, but it’s hardly comforting to think the president knows better but has thrown open the door anyway to allow for a vicious political brawl.

At this point, some form of public inquisition may be unstoppable. But the results may be far from what Obama envisioned. As Bill Kristol says:

Let’s have a big national debate on this.  Let’s have Steve Bradbury confront his accusers, who are one-tenth the lawyers he is, and who were not under the pressure he was under, and there was not a real threat. Let’s have George Tenet testify.  Let’s have Mike Hayden testify. Let’s have a serious debate.  Let’s have Dick Cheney take on anyone the left wants to produce about whether we were responsible, whether this was a dark chapter in our history, something we have to be ashamed of, or whether the U.S. government behaved in a very fine way, I think in a very impressive way…

(This supposes that all of the star witnesses will be granted immunity or will waive their Fifth Amendment rights, believing that the Justice Department won’t have the nerve to prosecute them.)

We are indeed, for better or worse, going down some path toward public inquest unless Nancy Pelosi and Pat Leahy are going to pack it in  — and Eric Holder decides there’s nothing here to prosecute. The latter would suggest Holder has more political courage than the president, who found it impossible to stand up to the howling mob this week.

In any event, Obama seemed to think he could have a “just our version of the truth” commission. That is the only scenario which now seems entirely out of the question.