Rumsfeld vs. Blagojevich, Cheney vs. Spitzer


Salon's Glenn Greenwald wonders at the press corps reaction to two ongoing examples of political crookery and malfeasance:

The bipartisan Senate Armed Services Committee report issued on Thursday—which documents that "former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other senior U.S. officials share much of the blame for detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba" and "that Rumsfeld's actions were 'a direct cause of detainee abuse' at Guantanamo and 'influenced and contributed to the use of abusive techniques … in Afghanistan and Iraq'"—raises an obvious and glaring question: how can it possibly be justified that the low-level Army personnel carrying out these policies at Abu Ghraib have been charged, convicted and imprisoned, while the high-level political officials and lawyers who directed and authorized these same policies remain free of any risk of prosecution?


This Report was issued on Thursday. Not a single mention was made of it on any of the Sunday news talk shows, with the sole exception being when John McCain told George Stephanopoulos that it was "not his job" to opine on whether criminal prosecutions were warranted for the Bush officials whose policies led to these crimes. What really matters, explained McCain, was not that we get caught up in the past, but instead, that we ensure this never happens again—yet, like everyone else who makes this argument, he offered no explanation as to how we could possibly ensure that "it never happens again" if we simultaneously announce that our political leaders will be immunized, not prosecuted, when they commit war crimes. Doesn't that mindset, rather obviously, substantially increase the likelihood—if not render inevitable—that such behavior will occur again? Other than that brief exchange, this Senate Report was a non-entity on the Sunday shows.

Instead, TV pundits were consumed with righteous anger over the petty, titillating, sleazy Rod Blagojevich scandal, competing with one another over who could spew the most derision and scorn for this pitiful, lowly, broken individual and his brazen though relatively inconsequential crimes. Every exciting detail was vouyeristically and meticulously dissected by political pundits—many, if not most, of whom have never bothered to acquaint themselves with any of the basic facts surrounding the monumental Bush lawbreaking and war crimes scandals….

The auction conducted by Blagojevich was just a slightly more flamboyant, vulgar and reckless expression of how our national political class conducts itself generally….But Blagojevich is an impotent figure, stripped of all power, a national joke. And attacking and condemning him is thus cheap and easy. It threatens nobody in power. To the contrary, his downfall is deceptively and usefully held up as an extreme aberration—proof that government officials are held accountable when they break the law.

The whole piece by Greenwald contains many more damning examples of high-level Bush administration complicity in some horrible acts and prisoner deaths. He does a similar comparison of the dreadful vs. the petty when it comes to political crimes with Dick Cheney (war, illegal wiretapping, torture) and Eliot Spitzer (consensual prostitution purchase), and sees who gets honored and who gets disgraced.