Sunday, August 30, 2009

Healthcare Reform, Torture, and Gay Equality: A Prognostication on Obama's Strategic Thinking

Barack Obama's first administration hinges on the outcome of the current Healthcare Reform debate. But this debate will come to an end soon, probably by the end of this calendar year. Whatever the outcome, Barack Obama will be free of the political constraints holding him back from going whole hog in pursuit of other matters such as prosecuting ALL folks up the chain of command to former Vice President Dick Cheney and former President George W. Bush who clearly and illegally authorized a horrific torture regime. Also, Obama will be free to rapidly overturn both the offensive "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that discriminates against gay members of the military and the equally offensive Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Obama has always rhetorically committed himself very strongly to ending torture and upholding the rule of law against toturers, as well as to advancing equality for America's GLBT community. And he's always asked for patience. The more I think of it, the more I believe he's holding back on the decisive action he really wants to take on these matters in deference to fighthing the Healthcare reform battles.

If he loses the Healthcare reform battle, what does he stand to lose by advancing a progressive agenda on these other matters that he wouldn't already have lost in the Healthcare reform battle? If he wins the Healthcare reform battle, he can ride a wave of momentum to push forward on these other matters without running the risk of having opposition to these other matters translate into a threat to the Healthcare reform legislation, which would have already been resolved.

What also leads me to have some confidence in this prognostication is that the torturers are themselves sniffing the danger, realize that time is running short, and are thus mounting an all out offensive to try to legitimize their torture policy in the minds of the public so as to solidify their position in the American psyche before Obama turns his full attention to them.

What seems abundantly clear is that the Bush and Cheney cabal clearly devised and implemented a torture policy. In fact, the question of whether what they authorized constitutes torture seems to be clearly settled: what they authorized was, indeed, torture. Now, the architects of this illegal torture policy are reduced effectively to saying "yeah, we tortured, but it worked; so cut us some slack." They have conceded the fact of torture, which makes them explicitly legally culpable; but they are now trying to get the public to absolve them for their illegal actions. In effect, they are making their case with the jury of public opinion, where the public might let them off the hook, so as to try to prevent them from from having to face the jury constituted in a court of law, where they are much more likely to be convicted strictly on legal grounds.

Could my hunch, in the end, be true? Who knows? But one can hope.

1 comment:

Howie Luvzus said...

My guess is that your hunch is true. My prayer is that the ones responsible for torture will be prosecuted and not simply those who engaged in it.