Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Not In Reagan's Footsteps

Sean Hannity responded to President Obama's speech at the U.S. Military Academy on December 1 by saying

I didn't hear Winston Churchill, I didn't hear Ronald Reagan, I didn't hear George Bush.

It's unfair to compare Barack Obama, at least at this point, to a recognized giant like Winston Churchill; and unfair to Barack Obama to compare him to George Bush, a recognized failure whom even Republicans now scurry to pretend was not even a conservative.

And according to this report from the San Francisco Chronicle, President Obama isn't even like President Reagan:

The Obama administration has asked an appeals court to dismiss a lawsuit accusing former Bush administration attorney John Yoo of authorizing the torture of a terrorism suspect, saying federal law does not allow damage claims against lawyers who advise the president on national security issues.

Such lawsuits ask courts to second-guess presidential decisions and pose "the risk of deterring full and frank advice regarding the military's detention and treatment of those determined to be enemies during an armed conflict," Justice Department lawyers said Thursday in arguments to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

When in May, 1988 President Reagan submitted to the U.S. Senate for ratification the Convention Against Torture, he commented

The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of the Convention . It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today....

The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called "universal jurisdiction." Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution.

The Convention, actively supported by President Reagan and signed during his administration, includes in Articles 2 and 4:

Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture.

Each State Party shall make these offences punishable by appropriate penalties which take into account their grave nature.

Officially, the decision to give a pass to the legal brains behind the Bush torture program was made by the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility. Still, ultimate responsibility for the failure to investigate warrantless surveillance, coercive interrogation techniques, and the politicization of the hirings and firings of prosecutors rests with a president who, at least on torture, apparently finds Ronald Reagan unacceptably progressive.

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