Dana Milback of the Washington Post has taken his satirical, yet observant, pen to the topic of creating a counter-terrorism Truth Commission, and idea proposed by Sen Patrick Leahy, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The long of the short of it is… there doesn’t appear to be legislative support for the proposal, nor is the executive very excited about “looking back,” as they say.
Which is really too bad. Not that I actually expect there to be some horrible truths to uncover. As the witnesses before the Committee testified, we are a far cry from South Africa post Apartheid. But there can be no question that the Bush Administration kept many things confidential to the detriment of democratic institutions. I agree with the Administration that we should be focused on the were we go from here, I also believe that future Administrations should know — at their core — that if they try to hide constitutional malfeasance all of their sins will be put on parade once they leave office.
The fact is that the White House is a very powerful and yet insulated political entity. Once elected there is very little anyone (Congress, the Press, the public) can do to force the President’s hand short of out right impeachment (which, so long as the country remains deeply partisan, is effectively impossible). So we rely on a coalition of forces to ensure the power of the Executive is kept in check. The judgment of history is part of that mechanism and setting the precedent of convening Truth Commissions to investigate obvious abuses of power might have been just the muscle history needs to be truly effective in the face of such rampant disregard for accountability.