We want the truth, the whole truth. The best way to get it is to immunize congressional witnesses who tell the story. That way, they will be part of a common effort to understand what went wrong, rather than targets of a criminal investigation. It may surprise you to learn that there are many civil servants who have quietly asked to be subpoenaed so their superiors will not accuse them of ratting out their bureaucratic cohorts. Fair enough. Subpoena them, and give them the protection of immunity, provided they tell the truth.
The cudgel of criminal action should be reserved for those who insist on clamming up, for they are obstructing investigations desperately needed to protect and advance our freedoms. But, as Andy McCarthy argues with his usual brilliance, for heaven’s sake let’s not have special prosecutors, who will throw a mantle of secrecy (“can’t talk about it, there’s a criminal investigation here”) over the whole thing. We want transparency, not secrecy. Secrecy is part of the problem and no part of the solution.
This requires Congress to carry the burden, and ferret out the truth. It’s hard to imagine our elected representatives will do themselves proud. So be it. It’ll be messy. But then, democracy is messy. Chaos can be creative. The pols will need an attentive and responsible press to call attention to their errors and their omissions. Hard to imagine that, too. So be it. There’s a lot of journalists, editors, talk show hosts, bloggers and even entertainers out there. I think we can sort it out. Bring it on. Give us a chance.
I sure hope we can get this right, even approximately right. When we elected Obama I said that we were in for a hell of a fight. We’ve got it. Let’s make the best of it. It’s political, stupid, in a very fundamental way: it’s about freedom and tyranny, the essence of American politics. Don’t turn it over to the lawyers. Get the story. Tell it all. Then we’ll figure out how best to deal with the mess we’re in.