Thursday, November 06, 2008

Friendly Advice

With all the problems that Obama will face as he takes office, prosecuting members of the previous administration for their many violations of the law will surely be a low priority. It would seem vindictive and unnecessary. If I were a principled and canny Republican, however, I would insist on a full accounting with all the trimmings even if it meant that some of my friends and colleagues did hard time. Allowing the guilty to escape may seem like a good thing from a partisan point of view, but what it would actually do is establish the precedent that the executive can get away with anything. The last administration invented a utopian solution to many of its problems by essentially legalizing crime, but the Republicans won’t like it when and if the Democrats play by the same rules or lack of rules. I won’t like it either.

I’d like to believe that the people who are currently taking power are morally better than those who they are supplanting, if only because they don’t have to meet a very high standard to do that. However, I also suspect that part of the reason the old order broke the law so freely was not simply a function of their ideology, which at its margins was pretty close to a combination of the Fuhrer Prinzip and a Tammany Hall license to steal, but also resulted from a generally low level of competence. Criminals tend to be stupid and conversely the stupid tend to be criminals. Just as man-eating lions are usually just the animals too old and sick to take their proper prey, dangerous men are often simply not clever enough or disciplined enough to achieve their aims in a constructive, lawful manner. For all their jabbering about John Galt, nothing so characterized the outgoing bunch more than its consistent mediocrity. They weren’t good at much and stole because they didn’t know how to earn. But even if the new men and women turn out to be more able, even considerably more able, and therefore capable of accomplishing their aims without cheating, the power of precedent is so great that I’m afraid that the executive will continue to abuse the Constitution under their charge. If Chaney and Gonzales go to prison, that will be less likely. Maybe somebody at the National Review could make this point in a featured article…

Tuesday, November 04, 2008