When The Rule Of Law Is/Isn’t Important

Ken AshfordWar on Terrorism/TortureLeave a Comment

Jonathan Chait reflects back on the late 1990's when the conservative right was all about "the rule of law":

The Republican sensibility was best reflected by the Wall Street Journal editorial page, which not only crusaded for impeachment but demanded, in 2001, that Bill Clinton be indicted even after leaving office. The Journal rejected the logic of promoting healing and insisted that a post-presidency indictment would uphold "the principle that even Presidents and ex-Presidents are not above the law."

Over the last decade, though, the right's thinking on this question has evolved. Today, the administration malfeasance consists of illegal torture, a crime I'd argue is no less serious than lying under oath about fellatio. Yet Republicans now believe that the Rule of Law is not only consistent with letting administration crimes go unpunished but actually requires it. To prosecute the departed administration would make us (to use their new catchphrase) a "banana republic"–the premise being that banana republics are defined not by their use of torture but by their overly zealous enforcement of anti-torture laws.

The GOP line is once again reflected by the Journal editorial page, which now thunders against "a new Administration prosecuting its predecessor for policy disagreements." The editorial notably fails to even address the question of whether the previous administration complied with the law, which is apparently no longer an important element of the Rule of Law.

Read the whole thing.  One of the best articles on torture prosecution out there.

Bonus points to Chait for a pretty decent pun ("Hit me Bybee one more time") and seemlessly working in a relevant reference to Monty Python ("Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition").