In spite of Attorney General Eric Holder's reported
reconsideration of prosecuting former Bush officials, on Sunday's Meet the
Press, Sen. John McCain agreed with President Obama, who still opposes it.
Without due process of trial or even formal indictment,
McCain stated quite unequivocally that his colleagues are guilty: "We all
know that bad things were done," he said when asked about the use of
torture under the Bush Administration watch. "We all know that the
operatives who did it most likely were under orders to do so. For us to
continue this and harm our image throughout the world -- I agree with the
president of the United
States, it's time to move forward and not go
What a difference a decade makes. When it came time to
investigate "bad things that were done" by then-President Clinton, McCain said at
the Senate impeachment hearings as he proceeded to vote 'Aye' for impeachment of
the president: "Most officers of my acquaintance would have resigned their
commission had they been discovered violating their oath." Since torture
is against both US and international law as well as against the Military
Commissions Act, it is indeed also a violation of the oath taken by both
military and civilian personnel. None of those who were the framers of the
policy resigned, not to mention those in the lower echelons. In fact, the
people who did wind up resigning were whistleblowers and others who refused
to carry out the policy (for example, General Antonio Taguba).
When David Gregory further questioned McCain about
reconciling his statement with the need for accountability, McCain's response was
revealing: "Well, the accountability, obviously, is that people's
reputations have been harmed very badly," he told Gregory who didn't
mention McCain's position on Clinton.
For McCain, Clinton's sexual exploitation-plastered
all over the news for weeks on end- wasn't enough punishment then and McCain
was glad to lead the pack in trying to remove Clinton
from office. Perhaps McCain is hypersensitive about sexual liaisons, given his
own infidelity during his first marriage for which Nancy Reagan was not so
McCain's statement could only come from someone whose
reputation was indeed once very much on the line, and not only for sexual infidelity.
Flashback to 1989. Using his own reasoning, clearly McCain believes that he should
never have been investigated for his role in the Keating Five debacle. Certainly
McCain's reputation was at risk for, at best exercising poor judgment in
associating with Keating (as charged by Congress at the time), and at worst,
for bribery, conspiracy, corruption and/or violation of campaign contribution
laws. In McCain's mind, damage to his reputation was punishment enough.
Beyond this obvious hypocrisy, using McCain's
reasoning, none of those caught up in Iran-Contra should ever have been
investigated (although they were "just following orders," too). In fact, McCain
supported the Contras and had "empathy" for people like Ollie North, who he
mused, "... saw their comrades and friends spill blood and die on the
battlefields in a war that they believe the politicians wouldn't let them
win--I think that leads to a mind-set which could rationalize deviating from
the established rules and regulations." [Chicago Tribune, July 29,
North did not resign his commission and he, too, got a pass from McCain. As far as is known, McCain didn't contribute to shaping the Iran policy at the time, but he did serve on the Advisory Board of a group called The US
Council for World Freedom, a group that, as it turns out, was actively involved
in trying to overthrow the Nicaraguan government and thus was squarely in the
center of the Iran-Contra scandal. But of course, that, in McCain logic,
doesn't explain his early support for the Contras; nor is it cause for
investigation. Better to leave him to his clean-as-a-whistle reputation.
McCain-speak, all lawbreakers wear their own scarlet A so they can skip all
that highfalutin stuff like formal trials and even hearings. Presumably this
applies to Jack Abramoff and Bernie Madoff, among other recent examples of
combined moral turpitude and financial genius gone awry.
The real McCain believes that he was unfairly
investigated and almost lost his career over something that should never have
come under public scrutiny. McCain continued his rap to David Gregory:
"... what's going to be the positive result from airing out and
ventilating details of what we already knew took place and should never have,
and we are committed to making sure never happens again?"
Translation: we don't really ever need to know what
criminal acts have occurred so long as we are committed to ensuring that they
never happen again. I bet many of those languishing in prison would support
such mea culpas and would gladly swear they won't do it again. (Channeling OJ
But McCain's commitment to making sure that we never have to bail out another financial institution hasn't turned out so well either. After his rendezvous with Keating, he proudly championed himself as a deregulator, even though deregulation was what stimulated the S&L crisis in the first place. Getting away with a mere reprimand for his role in the Keating affair enabled McCain to reconstitute his reputation. One way of making sure that sort of lapse would never happen again is careful oversight and regulation with teeth. However, the Maverick has always proudly called himself a deregulator. Just last year, in another CBS interview, McCain said he had no regrets about helping pass deregulation of the financial sector in 1999, legislation which, 20 plus years after Keating, helped usher in the scandals of Barings, Enron, and the current meltdown, to name just a few.
McCain will no doubt claim that his position is an example of how he reaches across the aisle. Unfortunately, Obama seems to agree. Time will tell if Holder turns out to be the real maverick.