NY Times safeguards its irrelevancy in call for the prosecution of Dick Cheney

When The New York Times ran an op-ed by American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony Romero calling for the pardoning of the members of the Bush administration who presided over the application of enhanced interrogation techniques to terror suspects, it was a display of shrewd politics.

In that piece, Romero virtually conceded that his preferred course of action – a formal pardoning of the members of the Bush administration by President Barack Obama – wouldn’t happen, but to even contemplate that course of action would be to acknowledge the guilt of those who associated with the former administration. To acknowledge the power to pardon, even if that power remains reserved, is to recognize that Bush White House officials engaged in crimes while overseeing CIA interrogations.

It may come as no surprise to learn that The New York Times editorial board possesses none of Romero’s savvy. In its perennial quest to sacrifice its former relevance and rebrand itself a fringe, preening, moralistic left-wing blog, The Times eschewed strategy and prudence in a Sunday editorial demanding the Justice Department “prosecute” Bush administration officials.

The editorial is as much a condemnation of Bush as it is of Obama, whom the board apparently had hoped would parade the Bush administration down the Canyon of Heroes in shackles.

“The nation cannot move forward in any meaningful way without coming to terms, legally and morally, with the abhorrent acts that were authorized, given a false patina of legality, and committed by American men and women from the highest levels of government on down,” the editorial read.

And by “the nation,” The Times editorial board meant themselves.

The editorial goes on to define the CIA’s practices as crimes prohibited in both U.S. law and in treaties to which America is signator. It adds that White House counsels under Bush unethically “wrote memos fabricating a legal foundation for the methods.”

The Times noted that the ACLU has demanded a special prosecutor’s appointment to investigate Bush-era CIA practices. The editorial board concurs that an independent investigation is due, but the blaring demand for prosecutions suggests that they believe the evidence is quite clear. The Senate Select Intelligence Committee’s report, conducted solely by Democrats and without the input of the accused, is plenty evidence for The Times.

This cathartic throat clearing finally climaxes with the names of those who should face justice:

The question everyone will want answered, of course, is: Who should be held accountable? That will depend on what an investigation finds, and as hard as it is to imagine Mr. Obama having the political courage to order a new investigation, it is harder to imagine a criminal probe of the actions of a former president.

But any credible investigation should include former Vice President Dick Cheney; Mr. Cheney’s chief of staff, David Addington; the former C.I.A. director George Tenet; and John Yoo and Jay Bybee, the Office of Legal Counsel lawyers who drafted what became known as the torture memos. There are many more names that could be considered, including Jose Rodriguez Jr., the C.I.A. official who ordered the destruction of the videotapes; the psychologists who devised the torture regimen; and the C.I.A. employees who carried out that regimen.

“Starting a criminal investigation is not about payback,” The Times unconvincingly concludes, “it is about ensuring that this never happens again and regaining the moral credibility to rebuke torture by other governments.”

This editorial will be consumed by the right people, they will feel better about themselves, and the editorial board’s recommendation will probably be ignored. All The Times set out to do was to posture anyway. Perhaps it would have been valuable to examine why so much of the public does not see the vast majority of practices outlined in the “torture” report as torture, or that pluralities and sometimes majorities see the CIA’s practices as justified in the wake of 9/11? If preventing this kind of behavior in the future is the goal, The Times should tackle its root causes: A public that believes it keeps them safe. To do that, however, is to abandon the cocoon of like-thinking, self-congratulatory liberals.

Crafting a convincing argument addressed to those predisposed to disagree is difficult. Confirming preconceived biases is easy, and unqualified praise for The Times from its ever-narrowing readership is a commodity in short supply.