With new revelations about secret intelligence activities under the Bush/Cheney administration, House Democrats are calling for a formal investigation into a secret CIA program that was not disclosed to Congress.
President Obama is in the process of losing what may be the most important argument of his young administration. The argument is not about health care, bank bailouts, the economy, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, the environment or the auto industry, though arguments on these issues are indeed ongoing and hanging in the balance.
No, the Obama administration is losing the argument about the past being less important than the future. They would like his government, Congress and the American people to look forward, and to leave behind as much of the past as possible. The past, in this case, is the battery of crimes, cover-ups and tyrannies unleashed by their predecessors in the Bush administration.
The Obama administration's argument in favor of leaving the myriad abuses of the Bush administration to the dustbin of history is understandable, though hardly valid at this point. Obama and his team have a thousand and one problems to deal with in the here and now, and according to them, any attempt to quest into the past will derail all the work they have to do. They are also justifiably concerned that Republicans in Congress will try to burn down the Capitol building if Democrats even twitch in the direction of digging up the past.
Understandable? Sure. Valid? Not by a long chalk.
Half a dozen times since his inauguration, President Obama has seen his agenda depth-charged by a report on some nefarious activity by the previous administration. Not only have his plans and intentions been derailed by these reports - whether they be about torture, government secrecy, indefinite detention, or whatever else - he has himself become culpable for the damage done by either trying to ignore these transgressions or by adopting them himself.
It happened again this weekend. The Obama administration has been trying to gear up for a millennial debate over health care reform, but Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have once again gotten in the way, not once but twice.