Justice, Obama Style

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Dahlia Lithwick, a senior editor at Slate, and Neil Eggleston, former associate White House counsel during the Clinton Administration, talk about the Obama Justice Department and how they'll deal with the thorny issues left over from the Bush Administration.


Neil Eggleston and Dahlia Lithwick

Comments [19]

Peter from Sunset Park


Are you suggesting that a Democratic senate, congress and president are ineffectual? Maybe you should vote for Republicans then.

Jan. 29 2009 02:52 PM
B. from NYC

Gotta say this in re: "whoa! wait a sec! you are saying that the new admin might not go after the old one even tho they said they would...I am shocked SHOCKED I say!"

When exactly? And with what language?

I say we put together a fund for a reward. The first "Spanish judge" that issues an arrest warrant for one, if not for all of them, gets the reward. I say Spanish judge because Pinochet was gotten in England with an arrest warrant issued by a judge in Spain. Let's at least make these hypocrites feel what it's like to run from the law. It's gotta be good for a chuckle. A real knockdown from the heights of arrogance. Let them get off on a technicality to be sure. Maybe there's a jail cell in Romania for one of them. A little waterboarding and they'll scream like babies.

Jan. 29 2009 02:18 PM
Peter from Sunset Park


For those who want to go after Bush and people in the Bush administration for war crimes, how about Clinton? Bill Clinton met with Arafat more then any other world leader. Arafat basically created international terrorism. Wouldn’t that make Clinton and Reno and others in the administration war criminals for directly supporting and giving money to terrorists? How about Rwanda? Bill Clinton says that Rwanda and Arafat are his greatest regrets. Isn’t presidential inaction in Rwanda that leads to genocide a criminal offense? Or is choosing to watch genocide occur a good thing now?

Perhaps the US should just jail every official ever elected to office. That way, liberals can sleep better at night and justice will be served. And, future presidents will know up front that any action they take will result in liberal or conservative moves to jail them. That would make for a better country, right?

Jan. 29 2009 11:03 AM
isa kocher from kucukcekmece istanbul turkey

Putting torture and crimes against humanity behind us is a crime against humanity. It means that human beings are simply expendable when it comes to politics. That is the end of democracy as we know it. Part of healing a necessary part of healing is recognizing admitting confessing accepting responsibility for perpetrating the abuse, for the abuse having been perpetrated. Unless and until the USA, until our whole system of justice, fesses up, it will never be behind us. That is a lie. It will never go away. It will toxify our legal foundations forever.

Jan. 29 2009 11:02 AM
B Marx from Downtown

The statement concerning investigating the Clinton Administration touched on an important point but did not parse the issue. Perhaps one might think this point a bit too cynical, even unrealistic; but Gore Vidal said this in an interview. The focus on Whitewater, which mutated into sexwater was a purposeful distraction that negated any discussion about real issues, such as national health care. It might also be thought of as a political repayment for Watergate, and Iran Contra, but these crimes were real, yet no one paid. Reagan had violated the US constitution before the election was even over. . Just as in NYC policeman perjured themselves in court after arresting those who protested the RNC, but no one lost their job or went to jail. Equal justice? Just as in the CBS "60 Minute" episode concerning Bush being AWOL, they challenged the validity of the document being an original, but not the content. If 99.99% of military personnel did what Bush did they would have been charged and tried. Just as when Governor of Texas Bush passed the 3 strikes your out law his daughter was arrested three times, but never did the time, but has the veracity of the law been revisited? A lawyer friend of mine once told me "you get the justice you can afford." If you steal bread you go to prison, where is Mr. Madoff.

Jan. 29 2009 11:01 AM
Adrienne from Manhattan

Accountability is Democracy with a capital D, not politics. Let's keep it straight: the Constitution is the issue and the President's responsibility is to uphold it. By extension, his appointees, including Holder must do the same. What does it mean to "move forward" if we're doing so based on a Constitution that has been shredded by the previous administration? There's no doubt that Bush & Co. broke numerous laws, reinterpreted existing laws to justify dubious, unethical and illegal acts and added insult to injury with signing statements, executive orders and obstructing justice at will.

This isn't about politics or poisoning the atmosphere. It's about dealing with reality. Either we value the Constitution or we don't. I want all branches of government to respect it and protect it. Obama, Congress, the justice department and the courts should all be working toward that goal, even if that means "looking backward."

Jan. 29 2009 11:01 AM
isa kocher from kucukcekmece istanbul turkey

after all the millions of dollars spent, the Clintons were found to be squeeky cleaned, not once one penny's worth of illegal and immoral anything. The Republican Party as a party paid people to bring false charges. All charges none of which involved his actual presidency, all proven false in courts of law, frivolous and false. How in the name of heaven can outright crimes knowingly deliberately committed crimes against our nation. Nixon's administration went to jail. Bush's can't even be investigated? That just simply transforms criminal behavior into main line politics.

Yes corruption has always been there, but it's never been considered "politics as usual" "policy difference" before. When caught with their pants down, politicians go to jail. That that is no longer a fundamental principle of law in the USA, we are lost, history, done as a nation of law.

Jan. 29 2009 10:55 AM
Owen from Rochester

We absolutely need to show that powerful Americans are not above the law. If John Yoo and Alberto Gonzalez don't go to prison for what they did, it will be hard to take the DOJ seriously in the future.

Jan. 29 2009 10:46 AM
Hugh from Crown Heights

In the devastated Europe following World War 2, we nevertheless had the Nuremberg trials. Justice demands that some of these American war criminals be prosecuted.

Jan. 29 2009 10:44 AM
KC from Brooklyn

Why this "looking forward" phrasing, Brian? I'm "looking forward" when I think it's very important to insure that future US leaders know that torture is illegal in the United States.

Jan. 29 2009 10:42 AM
Hugh from Crown Heights

Let's remember that Professor Obama taught _constitutional law_. What gives?

Jan. 29 2009 10:40 AM
Hugh from Crown Heights

Is Obama really going to oppose any and all prosecution of Bush administration war criminals?

This is deeply offensive. Rumsfeld, Yoo, Cheney, Addington and others are no less war criminals than many of those prosecuted for crimes elsewhere in the world. Granted, the current issue is one person -- Jose Padilla -- and not the American atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But if we cannot prosecute these monsters now, then what hope is there of ever holding any American to account? Is the American line really that NO AMERICAN in government can violate the rights of foreign nationals (and Padilla, it must be remembered, is American).

The Constitution clearly recognizes that anyone up to and including the President can be guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors. That Obama now joins the chorus denying this raises grave questions about his dedication to the rule of law.

Jan. 29 2009 10:37 AM
Joe Corrao from Brooklyn

whoa! wait a sec! you are saying that the new admin might not go after the old one even tho they said they would...I am shocked SHOCKED I say!

Jan. 29 2009 10:35 AM
barry from Manhattan

Chickens Coming Home to Roost

Jan. 29 2009 10:34 AM
barry from Manhattan

Unintended Consequences

Jan. 29 2009 10:33 AM
barry from Manhattan


Jan. 29 2009 10:33 AM
barry from Manhattan

Hoisted with his own Petard!

Jan. 29 2009 10:33 AM
Mike from Bellport

Kristof says in the NYT today that "Why fritter political capital on an inquest that would antagonize Republicans and imperil our economy and his agenda?", which seems to be the prevailing wisdom in D.C.

What is Obama gaining in political capital when every Republican is voting against him anyway? What does he have to lose by exposing crimes committed by the Bush Administration, especially something that is not controversial, like firing US Attorneys for political reasons?

Jan. 29 2009 10:17 AM
michaelw from Upper West Side

It is not the "Obama" justice system. It should be the "justice" system.

The Attorney General does not work for the president he or she works for the people.

Bush will get off scot free because no US president will be held accountable.

Jan. 29 2009 10:05 AM

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