Many Democrats in Congress have pushed for release of documents and the holding of hearings on waterboarding and other interrogation methods. Putting aside for now whether the release of such information should take place, it appears that Obama started the ball rolling down hill by releasing the interrogation memos. Barring active intervention by Obama, there will be some further level of document release, Congressional investigations, and public hearings.
This presents a problem mostly for Democrats. Republicans who were briefed on the interrogation methods at least will be consistent, for the most part, in maintaining that the methods were lawful and useful. No Republican is going to be harmed politically by the revelations because most Americans support these methods against people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. If leaks of a Justice Department report are to be believed, there will be no prosecutions. Republicans are safe politically and legally.
For Democrats, however, the damage could be significant. Nancy Pelosi already has lost a great deal of credibility from her changing stories. Dozens of other Democrats, including such senior Senators as Jay Rockefeller, apparently also were briefed on the interrogation methods and either were silent, approved, or encouraged the policy.
The irony is that a full blow investigation and hearings will turn mostly on what the Democrats knew, and when they knew it. The Republicans mostly couldn’t care less if they were “blamed” for keeping the country safe even if it necessitated waterboarding the mastermind of 9/11 to prevent further attacks. When faced with sacrificing a city versus using harsh interrogation methods, most voters would opt for harsh interrogation.
That the Democrats have more to lose is demonstrated by the looming fight between Democrats in Congress and the CIA. The Democrats are complaining that the CIA is out to get them through selective leaks of documents. These are the same Democrats who cheered when the CIA leaked information damaging to Bush administration policies. So that complaining is going to go no where.
Where this seems to be heading is: (1) Republicans claim Democrats are damaging national security, thereby setting Democrats up for blame when there is a terrorist attack; (2) Republicans claim the mantle of putting the safety of the country ahead of politics; (3) Democrats claim the mantle of putting politics ahead of the safety of the country; (4) Democrats end up exposing Democratic Party leaders to be untruthful, misleading, deceptive and/or too smart by half; (5) the CIA fights as it always has for its institutional interests, in a battle politicians mostly lose; and (6) Democrats turn on each other.
Just a month ago, who would have expected this headline:
This is the same Stenny Hoyer who lost out to Pelosi back in 2001 for Minority Whip, and who Pelosi opposed for his present position of Majority Leader (Pelosi backed John Murtha). No connection, I know. He just wants the truth to come out about Pelosi for the sake of the truth coming out.
Democrats vs. national security. Democrats vs. CIA. Democrats vs. Democrats. This is an investigation only Democrats could dream up, and Republicans can get behind. Republicans will be dragged kicking and screaming into the hearing room so they can ask Nancy Pelosi what she knew and when she knew it. If Democrats shield themselves, Republicans may need to schedule counter-hearings, also known as, “The Whole Truth Commission.”
You know it’s bad when Media Matters complains that Republicans have managed to change the subject:
Adopting the GOP’s emphasis on what Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats knew about the Bush administration’s use of harsh interrogation techniques, some in the media have ignored evidence that the Bush administration began using the tactics before briefing Democrats, and that upon learning of them, Rep. Jane Harman unsuccessfully expressed concerns to the CIA.
So Jane Harman is the Democrats’ big hope? The same Jane Harman who Nancy Pelosi refused to allow to become Chair of the House Intelligence Committee, despite Harman’s seniority? The same Jane Harman who Democrats tried to throw under the bus on the now-dropped AIPAC prosecutions by leaking that Harman was wiretapped talking to a possible “Israeli agent”? That Jane Harman? The only person who did object to waterboarding is expected to run interference for Democrats who went along to get along and who have treated her so poorly in the past several years?
What will Democrats do if they find that other Democrats were morally if not legally culpable in waterboarding? Do the Democrats have an exit strategy?
Here’s my prediction of what will happen if Democrats push the investigation to the bitter end causing damage to national security, a political death match with the CIA, and Democrat-on-Democrat finger pointing:
Stenny Hoyer, Speaker; Jane Harman, Majority Leader; Nancy Pelosi, Chair of the House sub-committee on fresh water fisheries; Republicans, unexpected gains in 2010 mid-term elections.
The Democrats wished hard for an investigation into waterboarding and other interrogation methods. They may have wished too hard, because they are about to get what they wished for, with no way out.
UPDATE: This just in, Pelosi Accuses CIA Of Lying. If only I could predict the stock market this well.