March 19, 2007
Let the Light Shine In
Congress seems likely to roll back Bush’s little-noticed maneuver, in the wake of 9/11, to keep secret forever the presidential crimes of himself, his father, and Reagan. High time, too. The only disinfectant that works on creatures that live under the rocks is sunlight.
These excerpts are from a piece by Dick Ahles, a former television journalist who writes a column that runs in our local weekly, The Lakeville Journal:
In normal times, Bush probably wouldn’t have gotten away with this assault on history but November 2001, when he signed his order, wasn’t a normal time. It was barely a month after 9/11, the country and indeed, the political parties, were blindly, and as it turned out, mistakenly united behind the president and even if they hadn’t been, both branches of the government were in Republican control …
Posted by Jerome Doolittle at March 19, 2007 10:21 AM
But now, the times, as they always do, have changed. With the end of one party rule, rubber stamps are out and accountability has suddenly become fashionable again. A week ago, a bill was introduced in the House to overturn Bush’s executive order and revive the provisions of the 1978 Presidential Records Act. It is expected to pass and should not be hindered, even by one of those rare Bush vetoes.
My curiosity gets the better of me. Are the records Bush sought to prevent from reaching sunlight now in the shredder bin? If so, all the sunlight in the world can't put Humpty Dumpty back together again. Do all the kings horses and all the kings men have any chance at success in such an endeavor? Inquiring minds want to know.
Dick Ahles just emailed me this update: "I don't have the number of the bill but since I filed the column, it passed the House 333-93, so its veto-proof Senate passage seems likely. It was introduced in Henry Waxman's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee."
It will be interesting to see the signing statement Bush issues with this one (assuming he doesn't veto it).
Don't hold me to this, Buck, but I believe the law requires all White House staff to hold onto pretty much every piece of paper and turn it in to the archivists when the president leaves office. This includes of course the president and vice president. They could hold shredding parties I guess, but it would be a pretty risky thing to do. And most important they can't shred all those emails. That's what's screwing them right now with those U.S. Attorney firings. Email may be gone, but it's not forgotten. It's on some server somewhere.None of our tawdry crew of Reaganite and Bushite (nos. 1 and 2) perjurers and war criminals is going to go to jail over this. That's not how our system works. We're not as advanced in that respect as, for instance, South Africa or Chile or Argentina. But at least the historians will have their day, and Dubya will find himself duking it out with Millard Fillmore for worst president ever. My money's on Bush.
I believe PSymbol is right, there are strict laws about not destroying such information because it's government, and therefore public, property. Of course they might destroy the information, but that is a crime in itself.
There's also usually one or more Alexander Butterfields around. This is particularly true when everyone except the central characters can see the approaching train wreck, and every semi-honest or -bright person starts looking for ways to get on the right, or at least winning, side again.
For example, email is often not gone when it appears to be (backups, incompletely erased files, etc.). It's true that Oliver North fell for that, so presumably such issues came up in the recent meeting of the Iran-Contra folks about lessons learned in prior attempts to subvert constitutional government. But both sides in this fight are learning.
What I wonder is how many people still ridicule the Christic Institute's attempts to sue Reagan administration operatives over the death and destruction caused in Nicaragua, of which the Iran-Contra scandal was really a fairly small part. (There was much worse going on at the time, a lot of it being run from the Vice President's office, occupied at the time by George H.W. Bush, and a fair amount of it happening in or transiting through Arkansas, whose governor at the time was Bill Clinton.) I admit it was always a quixotic attempt, but after all if you're calling yourselves the Christic Institute you're gonna be looking for opportunities for self-sacrifice.