Thursday, May 14, 2009

Party differences, Pelosi, and torture

Since differences between the parties seems to be today's theme, let me just pick up on a point Steve Balboni and others have been making about Pelosi and the torture briefings. As Steve said,
I don't think I've read anyone anywhere on the internet arguing that Nancy Pelosi should not be held responsible for anything she may have done to further these crimes. Yet there seems to be some sense that this is somehow an "Ah-ha! Gotcha!" moment for those of us committed to the rule of law and basic human rights. It's not. I and others have said all along that anyone involved in this should be prosecuted. Unlike many conservatives I'm not willing to make exceptions to the Constitution for politicians of my own party or political persuasion.
It is possible that, for entirely psychological reasons, conservatives have a deeper desire to defend their imperiled leaders than liberals do. You could call this a manifestation of the authoritarian personality, although that has certain negative connotations that aren't necessarily helpful to this discussion. But think of the Clinton impeachment. Yes, virtually all House Democrats voted against impeachment and virtually all Senate Democrats voted against removal from office, but just about all of them felt some need to publicly criticize Clinton for his behavior and demand his apology, if not his resignation. Keep in mind that he had roughly a 65% approval rating at this time.

Compare this to the way Republican officeholders rallied around Bush throughout his second term, despite an approval rating that was usually below 40 and often below 30. How many GOP senators or representatives stood up to criticize Bush on warrantless wiretapping, or torture, or the conduct of the war, or Abu Ghraib, or any other potential violation of the law or the Constitution? They just don't do that sort of thing. They pick their leader and they stick with him, for better or worse.

So I think the whole Pelosi gotcha game by conservative pundits represents a fundamental misreading of liberals by conservatives. Liberals don't hold their leaders in such high regard. They probably think Pelosi a reasonably good Speaker and are proud to have a woman in that role, but they wouldn't hesitate to dump her if they saw clear evidence that she enabled a torture regime.

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