Despite a formidable to-do list, the next president is being urged by some fellow Democrats and human rights groups to investigate the Bush administrations possible transgressions of law.

That would be a bad mistake.

Its not to say that the Bush administration did not flaunt its disdain for civil liberties, torture prisoners illegally, hold detainees without counsel, dissemble about the reasons for going to war in Iraq which had not attacked America, mishandle the war and broadly disobey the intent of the law on business regulation, environmental protection and consumer protection.

As Barack Obama enters the White House, 66 percent of Americans approve of him and 77 percent like him personally, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll. After the contentious campaign, that is a remarkable feat. It also indicates that Americans are glad to be bidding farewell to George W. Bush as president; the same poll shows 27 percent approve of the job he has done and 67 percent disapprove.

The new administration says water boarding (near drowning of suspected terrorists) is torture, is illegal and did not work to gain accurate information. The outgoing administration admitted engaging in water boarding, denying it was torture. One of the administrations own judges said the United States used torture.

The new administration denies that presidential powers assumed by Bush in the war on terror are unreviewable, as the outgoing administration claims.

The new administration disavows the methods and use of military commissions for prisoners at the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, vowing to close it. The outgoing administration defended its methods and policies there.

The new administration says warrant less wiretapping on U.S. soil is illegal. The outgoing administration staunchly defended it.

Human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, argue that the United States has a moral duty to disavow tactics used by the Bush administration, such as rendition sending prisoners to third countries to be tortured.

The incoming attorney general, Eric Holder, says mistakes were made after the 9/11 attacks by al Qaida but that criminalizing past policy decisions is not an option for the new administration. He pledged the United States will lead by strength, wisdom and example, not torture or recrimination.

Some Democrats have said that to clear the air and send the proper signals abroad that the United States is entering a new period of diplomacy and negotiation and a return to its old principles, an independent investigation of the past eight years is vital.

Obama said on the ABC show "This Week:” "We’re still evaluating how were going to approach the whole issue of interrogations, detentions, and so forth. My instinct is for us to focus on how do we make sure that moving forward we are doing the right thing. That doesn’t mean that if somebody has blatantly broken the law, that they are above the law. But my orientation is going to be to move forward.”

His instinct is right. But as new presidential aides and new Cabinet officers take their places, they will see for themselves the facts of what the Bush administration did in office and the extent of potentially illegal acts in the name of fighting terrorism. They may try to put pressure on the new president to initiate an investigation, if only to distance the new administration from the acts of the old one.

The facts will come out. We already are seeing unsettling disclosures from former Bush aides. Historians will get at the truth about Bush’s legacy. But we cannot afford the distraction, time or energy that would be required to be invested in anti-Bush investigations. They probably wouldn’t result in convictions for criminality anyway.

With our economy falling apart, with Americans fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, with the deplorable situation in Gaza and with Iran working to acquire nuclear weapons, we do not have the luxury of turning backward.

(Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986. E-mail


  1. I too wish to echo your sentiments Adam. Ronny Raygun and the first Bush would never have been elected had we followed the stinking trail of tricky Dick to it’s conclusion.

  2. Remember Nixon. We allowed the investigations to end when he quit the presidency. That was a huge mistake. The crimes of the president are not done by the president alone but by many members of his political organization. If we allow Bush to go quietly off and not investigate what crimes were done and who ALL helped him, then all those other members of the conspiracy of cockroaches will survive to infect our future. We need to ferret out all those guilty of the crimes in the conspiracy of George W Bush.

  3. Eliduc

    So why not form a grass roots group like Americans For Justice, get a couple of million signatures and demand that the Bush criminals be investigated and prosecuted?

  4. One of the reasons the Obama administration does not want to investigate is because of collusion from the Democrat side in pushing through Bush policy. Please, it wouldn’t have happened without collusion, and I won’t even mention what the GOP side did to push those policies through.

    Things are going to get really really ugly in the next year or two in this country – I’m starting to wonder how bad the accusations and mud slinging are going to get as people start playing the blame game. You may end up getting a show regardless of a formal investigation.

  5. Who are these people believe that our resources are so limited that we can’t put the country back on track, and investigate and prosecute these lying, thieving, murdering, torturing, war criminals at the same time? We are a nation of 300 million people, many of whom are quite competent. I don’t think this is beyond us.

    The only people who don’t want us to do it are those who are afraid that we will look too deeply, and investigate too far. But if we are to be a nation of laws, then we must have justice. If we do not prosecute those members of the Bush Administration who committed crimes in office, then we are essentially saying that our government is above the law. And if we are not a nation of laws, then we are not America anymore.

    I still want to know why the Democratic leadership didn’t impeach these…people…the moment they got the chance. That is how it is supposed to work.

    James Tubman
    A man does not fight only to win. Far better to fight when everything is hopeless.

  6. I just noticed the little bio of McFeatters at the bottom of her column that said: “Scripps Howard columnist Ann McFeatters has covered the White House and national politics since 1986.”

    So with the fact that she is pretty old for that beat, and with the probability that she actually rubbed body parts (Hopefully just shoulders) with many presidents, the likelihood that her reporting is biased and that she makes sure her pals are protected.

    I want to see journalists who will tell the truth, regardless of who it hurts, so We The People can make informed decisions. Someone who has had a lock on the White House Beat for any significant length of time–let’s face it, there aren’t a lot of Deep Throats and Bradley, Woodward & Bernsteins holding down the Fortress of Truth and Real Facts.

    Get rid of McFeatters and her naive or for sale journalism. We need honest reporters, not paid for editorialists.

  7. Someone bought McFetters. It isn’t difficult if you have stolen billions of dollars and thus can throw, say, ten million onto Annie’s table. Hell, for ten million, I’d write that bush/cheney should be put behind us.

    The difference is that I would like them there after I have taken some ExLax and can really express my true feelings for them.

    And now we are hearing some doublespeak from Obama’s AG candidate: :… Eric Holder, says mistakes were made after the 9/11 attacks by al Qaida but that criminalizing past policy decisions is not an option for the new administration.”

    Give us a break. We voted for change, not more of the same obfuscation.

  8. Ann needs to work on her facts.

    1. Illegal wiretaps began before 9-11.

    2. PATRIOT Act was written before 9-11.

    So for the Bush Admin (and Ann) to claim they screwed us all to protect us from terrorists is pure bull excrement.

    “The incoming attorney general, Eric Holder, says mistakes were made after the 9/11 attacks by al Qaida but that criminalizing past policy decisions is not an option for the new administration.”

    We ought to point out to the new AG that we aren’t asking them to criminalize past policy decisions as they were and are already illegal. We are but asking them to uphold the law as it is already written.

  9. “Politicians and diapers should be changed frequently for the same reason”

    That would be a bad mistake.??

    The thought of not investigating the self admitted crimes by this administration is repulsive.

    Putting a rank number on the order of repairing the damage done is nothing more than a diversion from facing the truth about ourselves as a people and a nation. These crimes were not innocent errors but crimes knowingly committed in secret by the very people who are elected to positions of authority to uphold our laws.

    Justice is suppose to be blind, not partial to special privilege.

  10. “McFeathers you are a total idiot. We’re dealing here with a criminal who has the blood of hundreds of thousand of innocent people on his hands AND YOU WANT TO LET HIM SLIDE ?”

    I couldn’t have said it better. Is this the kind of lesson you want passed on to our children? You can’t break the law unless you’re the president? Bulls**T! You’re out of your mind. Would you have said the same thing about Charles Manson? What makes his crimes different?

    Clinton was impeached for lying about oral sex and you want to give this president a pass for all he’s done? You’re out of your mind.

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