Nearly six years into Barack Obama's presidency, it's still George W. Bush's fault.
Early Wednesday morning, Julie Pace at the Associated Press proved yet again why it is more than appropriate to characterize the wire service where she works as the Administration's Press. The headline at Pace's story tells us that poor President Barack Obama still has to confront the "Bush legacy," and is still stuck with his wars and "big chunks of Bush's national security apparatus." Cry me a river, Julie. One of Pace's more important omissions is the fact that the enhanced interrogations program Senate Democrats are decrying was a creation of none other than Bill Clinton.
In a column he wrote three years ago, Mark Thiessen at the Washington Post exposed the hypocrisy of Senate Democrats trying to blame Bush 43 for what his predecessor started (links are in original; bolds are mine throughout this post):
Arrest Bill Clinton!
A true story: Several years ago, the CIA informed the White House counterterrorism adviser that it had located a wanted Islamic terrorist and requested White House guidance for how to proceed. The counterterrorism adviser recommended “extraordinary rendition” — snatching the terrorist in a covert operation and secretly whisking him away for interrogation in a foreign country. A White House lawyer demanded a meeting with the president to argue that this would be a violation of international law. In the Oval Office, the lawyer and the counterterrorism adviser argued their cases, when suddenly the vice president walked in. Hearing the lawyer’s objections, he said: “Of course it’s a violation of international law, that’s why it’s a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass.’ ” The rendition was authorized.
The vice president in question was not Dick Cheney, nor was the president George W. Bush. Rather, they (sic) men who decided to carry out the first extraordinary rendition of a terrorist target — over the legal objections of the White House counsel’s office — were Al Gore and Bill Clinton, according a description of the meeting by the counterterrorism adviser, Richard Clarke, in his memoir, “Against All Enemies.”
This episode is worth recalling in light of Amnesty International’s call for the arrest of former President George W. Bush during his recent visit to Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia for alleged “crimes under international law” relating to his administration’s RDI (Rendition, Detention and Interrogation) program. Yet it was the Clinton administration that pioneered what Amnesty considers the “illegal” practice of extraordinary rendition, which the organization claims “usually involve[s] multiple human rights violations.” Indeed, Gore himself acknowledged that such renditions were “a violation of international law” but counseled the president to go ahead anyway — sending captured terrorists to be interrogated by the intelligence services of regimes with questionable human rights records.
The George W. Bush administration continued the practice. In light of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, it surely must not have seemd like a bad idea.
Over at PJ Media Tuesday morning, Michael Walsh summarized Thiessen's 2011 points more succinctly:
What the Democrats are doing is classic Alinskyism, posturing as the defenders of the American Way and hoping like hell that nobody remembers that rendition prisons began under the Clinton administration.
And it all goes back to "the early 1990s." Lest anyone try to pin this on Bush 41, the linked ACLU web page from 2005 also states that the renditions program "traces its roots to the administration of former President Bill Clinton."
David Harsanyi at The Federalist believes that it probably didn't seem like a bad idea to many of the same Democrats who are now trying to pin all the blame on the CIA and the Bush administration to continue the program after the 9/11 attacks:
The Senate Democrats’ ‘Torture Report’ Is About Politics, Not Justice
Eric Holder could not find any prosecutable offenses had been committed in the interrogation program after years of investigating. But if the report says the CIA misled Congress, why isn’t Dianne Feinstein demanding that the Attorney General reopen the case?
Who knew? Let’s find out. In the Wall Street Journal, former CIA heads claim that the interrogation program was authorized by the highest levels of government. They offer a convincing case that leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees were regularly briefed on specifics between 2002 and 2009. Too bad we can’t put Feinstein or Nancy Pelosi under oath and ask them what they knew. It’s plausible that some of the very politicians who were briefed by CIA were using this report to sermonize us about sanctity of American values this very week. Of course, that’s the real purpose of this report.
I believe it's quite reasonable to replace "plausible" in the last bolded sentence with "probable."
As to Pace's whining about the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan over at AP: It should be obvious to any objective observer that Obama inherited victory in Iraq and gave it all away in a hasty, temporarily politically satisfying premature withdrawal. The ISIS killings and bloodbaths there are on him. Less obvious but still true is the fact that Obama has never really tried to win in Afghanistan, and has belatedly recognized that a complete withdrawal would simply cause even more carnage.
The absurdity of all of this lies in how it is Obama who, in an attempt to calm down a group of hecklers, admitted that he had taken action to "change the law" relating to illegal immigration. Yet he is somehow still shackled by his George W. Bush's decisions and actions in the one acknowledged consitutional role — as commander in chief — where he has a significant degree of latitude.
Obama even has press apparatchiks like Julie Pace on his side. A year ago, Pace openly bragged about how AP had stayed mum and did not report information it had concerning secret Obama administration negotiations with Iran. After yours truly called AP and Pace out for their stance, the wire service tried to claim that it hadn't reported the news because it wasn't solid enough. Then a reporter at another news outlet blabbed about how she and AP had sat on the news because the Obama administration had "asked to not publish til end of Iran talks." Oops.
So spare us the Palace Guard's pathetic pity party, Julie.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.