In his later years, Mafia kingpin Vincent "The Chin" Gigante took to wandering the streets of New York clad only in a bathrobe and mumbling to himself. Facing indictment and good odds that he would die in prison, The Chin decided that putting on a well-publicized and elaborate display of "crazy" behavior would help him cop an insanity plea in court. When Federal prosecutors threatened to add perjury charges to his already daunting dossier of felonies, Gigante finally admitted in 2003 that his "insanity" was nothing but an act concocted to avoid prosecution.

This story came to mind immediately when I saw this:

Concerned that he didn't look enough like a Bond villain, he added a black stetson hat to his cane-and-wheelchair ensemble. Now, I am being only partly serious here. Obama, whose balls sure have shrunk and retracted a lot in the past month, has already made it clear that Cheney will never need an insanity defense or any other. Everyone gets a pass on the past eight years. Apparently we are going to do a big, national "Mistakes were made. But why talk about the past?" rationalization to excuse everything that happened.

I find this curious.

It's not a surprise that the political elite have little interest in investigations and criminal charges. What's truly disturbing is how little clamor for accountability there is among the voting public. I think this has a fairly simple explanation: a large percentage of this country feels culpable. They voted to put these lunatics in charge, voted to re-elect them, bought an almost laughably absurd rationale for war (and its supporting "evidence") without a moment's hesitation, applauded the criminally negligent economic stewardship (Boy, those $300 stimulus checks were neat! Remember those? Me neither!), and generally made excuses for the administration for eight years. To investigate or charge anyone with a crime would be to dredge up painful memories of how naive, selfish, arrogant, and flat-out dumb a lot of the public behaved after 9/11 and into Bush's second term. Like a victim of a scam who is too embarassed about being duped to call the police and file charges, Americans have no interest in re-living the days in which the Patriot Act seemed like a good idea, "excessive regulation" was our greatest economic problem, and a nation watched Uncle Colin's UN performance and fell for it. Hook, line, and sinker. Amnesia regarding 2001-2005 has already affected millions of people and I suspect that it will continue to spread for the forseeable future.

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  • Cheney is a spitting image of Mr. Potter here. I couldn't get the resemblance out of my head during inauguration day: it is just too perfect.

  • As much as I would like to see Bush and Cheney be locked away forever in a cell together, I don't think Obama's unwillingness to prosecute is due to a lack of juevos, so to speak. Rather I think he is playing the Ford card. Ford's rationale in pardoning Nixon was that a long drawn out trial would painfully delay a much needed healing process and the need for the restoration of the faith of the American people in their government. Obama's inaugural address had this same tone. Now is the time to rebuild and fix, etc. A prosecution trial of Bush and Cheney would, during the time of an ever more ridiculous 24 hours news cycle, inevitably be a huge and ugly distraction for his administration. As much as I hate that this means no accountability for Dr. Evil and No. 2 (Bush is No. 2), I think it is the right call and, lucky for him, the public, as you have pointed out, is just as eager to forget, so the move won't be as politically unpopular as was Ford's pardon of Nixon.

  • To Shane's comment that "a long drawn out trial would painfully delay a much needed healing process and the need for the restoration of the faith of the American people in their government" is BULLSHIT. Just because it would be a hard thing to go through is not a reason not to do it.

  • according to The Daily Show, the only thing missing from an image of a wheelchaired Cheney is a supervillain-esque fluffy white cat situated on his lap while "The Imperial March" played in the background…

    but seriously, I thought a post related to the insanity defense would be more so related to Blagojevich who just might be trying to work that angle(?).

  • To Micheal – while I agree that not doing difficult things because they are difficult is not an acceptable rationale for not doing something, I feel you've missed Shane's point. Looking at the possible negative side effects of doing something, weighing them against the possible good to come out of doing it and then making a decision not to do something is not BS.

    It's politics, and whether you like it or not, that is how decisions are made.

  • Ford's pardon of Nixon has resulted in no one being held responsible for their actions. Saying Ford's pardon healed the nation is Bullshit!! If they are ever brought to trail for their crimes it will be some other country that does it. If it's done in this country, the NeverRight-Wing will scream that it is Partisian Warfare!!

  • Well, as long as we're vastly oversimplifying issues in our comments (what else would one do in a blog comment?) let me throw my hat in the ring.

    It is *more important* to work on fixing the damage done by the policies enacted during the Bush administration than it is to enact vengeance on the individuals responsible. It is more important to prove that their ideology is evil than it is to prove that they are.

    I don't believe that there is sufficient popular support for a large-scale prosecution of the people involved in the crimes perpetrated by the Bush government to make it politically feasible. And Obama's administration is going to have enough trouble just cleaning up the mess they made.

    In a perfect world, yes – all the evil people would be punished and the good would be rewarded, but you can only hold onto your ideology for so long before you become Ralph Nader. If your ideals are more important than your goals, go on tilting at windmills, but the rest of us have to live in the world.

  • It is NOT vengeance. They VIOLATED international and US law. They engaged in behavior that would have the leaders of less powerful nations branded as war criminals. What SUCKS is that they will get away with it, because it wouldn't be POLITICALLY FEASIBLE to punish their wrong doing.

    So you're saying that ANY President and his minions can break ANY law, and they are beyond punishment.

  • I don't know enough about how this works — Bush is charged with war crimes in U.S. court with 12 jurors deciding his fate? — but even as a lefty Democrat I don't have the stomach for it. It would be a huge undertaking that would suck up just about atom of oxygen in the political and media spheres. I'm not thinking about whether it's politically feasible. Is it good for the country? This administration has two wars, a Middle East tinderbox, and an economy in a tailspin. It would be a huge distraction that would make it next to impossible to even work towards fixing the ongoing problems. And as Ed points out, we re-elected the guy on the strength of his war crimes record. I think a trial that derails efforts at reform and means that more people are put in jeopardy elevates principle (punish the guity!) over policy (health care, global warming, abortion rights, etc.).

  • Holy fuck, Michael – you did not read my post. If you did read it, then you made no effort at all to understand what I had to say. If you did make an effort, then you failed utterly.

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