Disclose and Move On

Obama releases four Bush-era interrogation memos.

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President Obama releases four torture memos from the previous administration but moves on a little too quickly. Glad tidings of a new relationship with the other half of the hemisphere is a tune we’ve heard before. Obama scores a 60 on the Change-o-Meter.

After a month of debate, the Justice Department released four Bush-era memos on Thursday that detail harsh interrogation tactics used on al-Qaida suspects in overseas prisons. President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder were quick to assure CIA employees that interrogators will not be retroactively prosecuted for conduct that was sanctioned by the Justice Department at the time of the interrogations. The ‘Meter enthusiastically awards 80 points for the release of the memos, which are vital to the United States’ efforts to confront the ugly moral quandaries of the Bush years. Immunity for the CIA officers is a wash; while the ‘Meter understands the desire to hold those on the ground culpable, Obama had to strike a balance with an agency that opposes the memos’ release in the first place.

As Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick argues, however, Obama is ducking a major moral issue by trying to move on so hastily. The ‘Meter is swayed; four released memos do not absolve the country and do little to heal the wounds left over from many of the controversial directives made during the Bush era, for which the ‘Meter takes back 10 points.

Meanwhile, Obama continues his summiteering south of the border today, traveling to Trinidad for the Summit of the Americas. As we noted yesterday, Obama added curbing drug cartels to his list of “Things to do while I’m president” and appointed a border czar to target specific gun and drug cartels. But as the Washington Post points out, Bush made similar grandiose promises to make Latin America a top foreign policy priority, which turned out to be more symbolic than anything else. The ‘Meter has already given points for Obama’s rhetoric of change. But his refusal to push for new gun control laws, including the renewal of the assault weapons ban, will cost him another 10 points.

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