I'm checking out Coveritlive for possible use in a future project. As an experiment, I'll be liveblogging today's White House press briefing.
Well, that was a fun exercise. I might do this again for the President's prime time press conference on the 29th, if anyone reading this is the sort of person who watches TV with a laptop by their side.
All in all, I was struck by Gibbs' shift in tone in terms of prosecution of torture. He didn't once say that the focus was on moving forward. He did mention a preference for reflection over retribution, but it was rather muted in comparison. It seems to be inevitable now with the release of the torture memos and the growing suspicion that the purpose of these torture programs was not to protect the country against terror but rather to advance the claim that there was an operational link between Saddam Hussein and Al-Queda that there will be legal proceedings on this matter. The dialogue has morphed from a question as to whether Yoo, Bybee, and their ilk will be prosecuted to a question of whether or not it could move so far up the line as to hit Rice, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and even Bush. The Obama administration has now committed to leaving this matter in the hands of Justice, where it belongs. All eyes are now on Eric Holder.
These are exciting times for those of us who wish we could, as a nation, call a mulligan on Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon. Gibbs left the podium in a hurry after that was brought up, and for good reason. The office of the Presidency is defined both by the Constitution and by precedent, and in pardoning Nixon, Ford set a rather dangerous precedent but an enduring one. That once a President leave office, he's effectively free from culpability in any legal sense for his actions as President. Hunter S Thompson claimed that this act haunted Ford for the rest of his life. That he was a man who believed strongly in Heaven and Hell and that he knew which direction he'd be headed, because he'd pardoned Nixon. What's known from his posthumously released musings is that he was no supporter of the Bush administration and were he alive today to hear this debate-- which in any other context would be absurd-- as to whether or not to bring charges against people who have clearly broken the law would likely have been agonizing for him, given his role in framing the issue. But despite any misgivings he may have had personally about it, his precedent stands unbroken. It's a line in the sand that anyone in Washington is going to be careful about even discussing, let alone crossing.
As for the other theme here, the credit card issue, it's going to be interesting to see how this plays out. We're at a place right now where the banks have almost zero political capital, and are going to need to be co-operative with the government, in many instances, to ensure their basic survival. We are not going to see any significant preventative lobbying effort here. In fact, Barney Frank said on Maddow last night that after getting a letter from a constituent who'd been denied a credit card because she lived in a "problem neighborhood," he was able to get the restriction dropped with a phone call to that particular bank's lobbyist.
I for one welcome this new brand of lobbying. It also makes me a little more comfortable with the things I learned during the campaign about Obama's relationship with lobbyists.
But the real question here is how to ensure that these measures, whatever they end up being don't ever go the way of the Glass-Steagel Act, and I don't think there's a good answer available right now. For the moment I would be content to see some significant movement in creating a Credit Consumer's Bill of Rights that provides some real protection, including hopefully an end to the tactic of offering 0% interest specifically to people who have bad credit, only to balloon it to 30% once a single payment is missed, as well as an evisceration of those payday loan agencies. Loan sharking used to be illegal in this country. Nowadays all you need is a license.
Significant for Gibbs is that his tie (a sort of bright pink with an ugly speckled pattern that REALLY wasn't showing up well on camera) was the most embarrasing thing about today's briefing, and while I do appreciate the man, that isn't always the case.