On Bush and Pardons

I was reading this morning an article on a rumored pardon President Bush is considering — a blanket pardon for anyone involved in his administration’s torture policies. Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, extraordinary rendition — all of that would be covered.

On the one hand, a blanket pardon for anyone involved in the interrogations could be viewed by the public as a tacit admission of colossal wrongdoing — after years of public denial — which would do nothing to help Bush’s tarnished legacy. Yet, if the administration fears an investigation will follow Bush out the door in January, they may not want to leave officials exposed to potentially revealing criminal proceedings. Bush might seek to frame a blanket pardon as a preemptive strike against wrongheaded, partisan retribution.

Reasons, I suppose, if not necessary good ones for such a blanket pardon.

Yet, I’ve wondered of late if Bush would pardon anyone in his administration for their role in crafting the administration’s torture policies (John Yoo, I’m looking at you) and in carrying them out. Because to issue a pardon would be the equivalent to an admission that laws were broken, that Bush was wrong, and one thing that Bush-watchers can say is that Bush never admits that he’s wrong. He simply cannot accept that his previous decisions need to be reconsidered. He is intransigent in his certainitude.

I’m not sure if Bush believes that he’s protected by Nixon’s statement in the David Frost interviews — “If the President does it, by definition it is not illegal” (a rough, pre-coffee paraphrase from memory; I’ve probably mangled a word or three). Or if some future prosecutor tries to bring charges against, say, Rumsfeld or Yoo, they would fall back on the Nuremberg Defense — “We were only following orders.” Neither of which would work, mind you.

And even then, a presidential pardon isn’t going to work on the international stage. As noted here, Milosevic in Serbia was put on trial for crimes against humanity; there’s nothing that would prevent Cheney from being nabbed while overseas and hauled off to the dock at the Hague.

If the thinking here is fuzzy, it’s because it’s early. Just in pondering pardons and the Bush administration’s lawlessness, I think that Bush could be so convinced of his rightness that he’ll leave office, not having issued the pardons to cover those around him and prevent their prosecution domestically.

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