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Popular blogger Glenn Greenwald interviewed NBC's political news director, Chuck Todd, yesterday. (Transcript here) The topic of discussion was why the Bush administration should or should not be investigated for numerous crimes....and what role the media should play in the debate.
I must hand it to Chuck Todd for braving such an interview. Todd is basically a good guy. His view of things is skewed, not because he is some neo-con cheerleader or dishonest broker....but because he is a member of Washington's elite Village.
What Chuck Todd said in the interview should help folks understand why it is that today's media does what it does. Let's look at a couple of examples....the topic is investigating and/or prosecuting the crimes of the Bush administration.
Greenwald...."we're just talking about having a standard prosecutor investigate to determine if crimes were committed. Why isn't that perfectly appropriate when accusations of this kind are made?"
Todd...."Nobody is saying it's not appropriate legally, but there is a political side. You can't sit here and take away the political conversation and pretend it doesn't exist in this, and pretend that it isn't a part of this.
What message does that send if we have this political trial, and how do you know this won't turn into a political trial? In fact, we know it's going to turn into a political trial. I'll take that back - we don't know whether it's going to turn into a political trial. That is the experience of how these things have worked in the past, that end up getting turned into a political trial."
Two things here. I'm not sure what Chuck Todd is talking about when he talks about a "political trial", but that's his main objection to investigating Bush administration officials. Secondly, Todd believes that investigating past administration officials for crimes sends the wrong "message" to somebody.
Here's Todd expanding on his "message" objection....
"Is it healthy for our reputation around the world - and this I think is that we have TO do what other countries do more often than not, so-called democracies that struggle with their democracy, and sit there and always PUT the previous administration on trial - you don't think that we start having retributions on this going forward?"
If the U.S. holds it's leaders accountable to the rule of law by investigating obvious crimes, Chuck Todd reasons that our nation would be imitating what "so-called democracies"..."do more often than not." That is..."always" putting "previous administration(s) on trial." And if the U.S. pursues investigations of the Bush administration, our country will "start having retributions."
Honestly.....I have no idea what Todd is talking about. I don't.
When a nation holds it's leaders or former leaders accountable for their actions according to the rule of law.....the "message" conveyed is that the nation is SERIOUS about the rule of law. The "message" the U.S. has been conveying thus far is that we are NOT serious about the rule of law when that rule of law has been broken by our highest leaders. The "message" we're sending right now is the same "message" we receive from typical rogue-leader countries......laws are for the little people, but don't have to be obeyed by the leaders. So far, that's the "message" other countries are getting from the U.S.
Ultimately, Chuck Todd's Village justification for not investigating Bush-regime crimes is what he calls the "political reality."
"I don't believe I'm endorsing a system of lawlessness; I'm trying to put in the reality that as much that there is a legal black and white here, there is a political reality that clouds this, and you know it does too."
"....in a perfect world - Glenn, in a perfect world, yes. And if you could also guarantee me, that this wouldn't become a show trial, and wouldn't be put, and created so that we had nightly debates about it, that is the ideal way to handle this."
The Village rules start off now with the premise that avoiding messy, argumentative, polarizing investigations and "show trials" of American leaders takes precedent over holding our leaders accountable to the rule of law. "From 30,000 feet", or "in a perfect world", sure, the U.S. should follow the rule of law, according to Chuck Todd, but the "nightly debates" that would happen on the teevee if the Bush administration is investigated, makes investigating those crimes prohibitive.
I know it's kind of, you know, astonishing,....but that's what Chuck Todd said.
A brief summary: Because appropriate and legal investigations into Bush administration crimes will become "politicized", with ugly "nightly debates" on the teevee, .......holding American political leaders accountable to the law, just like any other U.S. citizen, is something that should not be considered. Maybe in a perfect world, but not in the world of the Village.
There's much more in the Todd interview....well worth reading in it's entirety.
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