Leahy's 'Truth Commission' Nonsense

In a rare departure from his usual enthusiasm for really bad ideas, President Barack Obama sought to distance himself from Sen. Pat Leahy’s (D-Vt) demand for the creation of a “Truth Commission” to investigate every Bush-induced Democratic hallucination.  Leahy wants such a commission to look into everything from treatment of captured terrorists at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, to the dismissal of politically appointed US attorneys and the Bush administration’s use (and alleged abuse) of  intelligence information leading up to the Iraq War.

Oh, sure, he’ll “look into it,” says the President, “but generally speaking, I’m more interested in looking forward than I am in looking back.”  In other words, “guys, get over it and find something useful to do.”

But being useful has never been the strong suit of the two leading proponents of this scheme to invest taxpayers money in a major performance of still more Bush-bashing — Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt) and Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mi).

“It’s a lot easier to look forward if you know what happened in the past,” says Leahy.  True enough — and that explains why some of us are so leery of Leahy.  Because we remember his being forced to resign in disgrace from the Senate Intelligence Committee for more than once leaking classified information which endangered and possibly led to the death of American agents.

In a speech at Georgetown University, Leahy said, “We need to get to the bottom of what happened and why.  And the reason we do that is so it will never happen again.  One path to that goal would be a reconciliation process, a truth commission.”

Get it? The smear job propaganda that Leahy, Conyers and their Congressional Democrats allies are peddling is that America under Bush was on a par with South Africa under its authoritarian apartheid regime and, just as post-apartheid South Africa investigated the previous regime with a “Truth and Reconciliation Commission,” America needs to do the same because George W. Bush was so evil. 

Congressman Conyers, a man who has difficulty mentioning the name George W. Bush in a sentence unless it also includes the phrase “war crimes,” says there’s nothing at all political about what they are up to.  All he wants is to have an outside “blue ribbon” commission look into the facts and make suggestions. Of course its members would receive their blue ribbons from the Democratic President and the leadership of the Democrat-controlled Congress.

Senator Leahy had this inspiration: “We could develop and authorize a person or group of people universally recognized as fair-minded and without an ax to grind.”  He gives no clue as to what person or group might possibly fit such a description.  Snow White?  The Seven Dwarfs?

Forget that the Democrats’ “Truth Commission” scheme is something befitting a country that changes governments in havoc and upheaval rather than a country that has a two century plus unbroken string of peaceful transitions from one government to the next. 

Forget that it all but guarantees a retaliatory attack the next time there is a change in the party in control — and the next and the next. 

Forget that as presently outlined it is of dubious constitutionality — it raises serious separation of powers and due process issues. 

Forget that it was not very long ago that both parties were saying that they had finally wised up to the unintended consequences danger of a similar idea — the independent counsel statute.

Forget that Conyers’ “war crimes” smear of President Bush would soon also be applicable to President Obama since he has authorized military strikes identical to the kind that led to President Bush’s being so smeared with that phrase.

Democrats don’t need any commission.  Congress already possesses the power to do what they claim they want their “Truth Commission” to do. So what! Having a commission do it enables the Democrats to pretend it’s not just political.

The records are all right there in the government departments that they now control.  “You just have to walk in and ask where the file cabinets are,” Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) explained to them.  So what?  Having an outside commission demand to see them sounds better on the evening news.

“This is not only a bad idea,” says Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), “it is a diversion from the economic crisis we face.”


Therein lies one explanation for why many Democrats are hell bent on pursuing their “Truth Commission” — it would help steer media attention away from details of what the Democrats are up to with the economy while further demonizing George W. Bush as the cause of all that is wrong in the world.

And therein also lies a huge opportunity for Republicans.

Republicans should do two things: 1) Ignore advice from anyone who was a political strategist for the McCain campaign or, for that matter, any of the other 2008 Republican presidential campaigns; and 2) Counter-program the Democrats’ show with one of their own that is more interesting to most Americans and genuinely good for the country.

Why not a Republican “blue ribbon” commission to investigate and detail how we got into the economic mess we’re in?

A group of Republican Senators and Representatives should join together and sau: “We agree with Senator Leahy and his Democratic Congressional colleagues that, ‘We need to get to the bottom of what happened and why.  And the reason we do that is so it will never happen again.’  But we think that what we need to investigate is not whether some captured terrorists aren’t happy that we are not putting them up at the Ritz but rather who is really responsible for causing our current financial crisis and how can we make them pay an appropriate price for what they did to the American people.”

And then the Republican “Blue Ribbon” financial crisis “Truth Commission” should put out a list of all the people that it will invite to testify and answer questions — the gangs from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Members of Congress and Clinton Administration officials who pressured banks into making loans that they knew were fraught with great risk of default, etc. 

Invite House Financial Services Chairman Congressman Barney Frank to come explain why he kept assuring us that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were just fine — no problems — and why his relationship with a key Fannie Mae official wasn’t really a serious conflict of interest. Invite Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd to drop by and explain his latest version of that sweetheart deal he had with Countrywide while he was supposedly overseeing it.

So what if Dodd and Frank decline.  Do the empty chair bit.  Then invite experts to come explain the role Dodd and Frank played — and the ethics issues surrounding the two of them.

Let the American people hear the story of what really went wrong from people who truly understand it and have a flair for explaining it clearly.  Thomas Sowell comes to mind.

Let the Democrats put on a show whining about a kinder gentler approach to terrorists and weeping about government lawyers who lost their political jobs.

And while they are doing this, let Republicans step up and finally do what they should have done during the presidential campaign: explain to the American people that it wasn’t the free market that caused our financial crisis; it was to a large extent caused by the Clinton Democrats using HUD and the Department of Justice to force upon banks ill conceived quotas of high risk mortgage loans. Let Republicans make it clear to the American people that they will go all out to bring to justice every villain responsible for our current mess.