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Blame Rahm! Accountability for Health Care Reform and the Torture Investigation

Thanks to Bruce Fealk for taping my torture panel from Saturday (and to RevDeb for making sure I got the links). Above is my bit. Here are:

Introductions and Congressman Nadler

Center for Constitutional Rights Executive Director Vince Warren (who I thought was the most interesting of all of us)

ACLU Attorney Melissa Goodman

DFH blogger "emptywheel"

Questions & Answers

I wanted to talk briefly about a point I made in my comments.

Rahm Emanuel has stood between us and accountability on torture. And if today or tomorrow or soon, DOJ announces a whitewash, Rahm owns that too.

Back when Obama picked Rahm, I grudgingly accepted it. If, as seemed to be the plan, Obama picked Rahm because of his perceived ability to get things done legislatively, it at least signaled an intent to avoid the legislative problems Clinton had. Turns out, though (and I guess this was predictable), Rahm brought a legislative strategy that might be appropriate for 2004, but is a disaster given the majorities we have in 2009. And then Rahm failed to even effectively implement that outdated legislative strategy (someone at the surreal midget bar experience–someone who has a lot of respect for Rahm–called it "political malpractice").

And in exchange for this political malpractice, a tight, professional campaign turned literally overnight into a leaky sieve.

Within short order after his selection, Rahm was working hard to jerry-rig his replacement to make it easy for him to swoop back into the House in two years to take away Pelosi’s gavel. As a result, Greg Craig was forced to jump through some ill-advised hoops to distract the press from Rahm’s conversations with Rod Blagojevich; you can be sure Rahm’s conversations with Blago will continue to be a liability as that case gets closer to trial.

But, we were promised, Rahm would get us health care. What that really meant though is that we had to clear the political landscape to give Rahm his opportunity to get us health care. And instead of doing the legislative work to get that done, Rahm and the loathsome Jim Messina have been trying to cut deals with big health care corporations to turn this into a welfare program for them. As even that effort is beginning to go south, Rahm has (predictably) already switched into scapegoat mode, trying to blame his utter failure on health care on someone else.

Against that background, consider again the parallel scapegoating directed at Greg Craig and Eric Holder for their efforts to come clean on torture. Not only is Rahm prepping to blame Max Baucus for his own health care failure, but he’s prepping to blame Greg Craig and Eric Holder, too (Rahm’s worried, you see, because he let Dick Cheney gain the upper hand in this debate, which is yet another thing he failed to anticipate). And, at the same time, he’s doing everything he can to limit the torture investigation into one targeting only the Lynndie England’s of the torture world, and not the Yoos, Cheneys, and Addingtons.

Rahm is standing between America and coming clean on her war crimes.

Now, I raise all this because I do think Rahm is at a vulnerable moment. One of the most interesting passages in the very significantly timed NYT beat sweetener the other day was this one:

But when a New York Times Magazine profile of Ms. Jarrett last month explored the old scratchiness, White House officials said the normally calm Mr. Obama erupted with anger. An informal edict went out: no more cooperating with staff profiles. As a result, Mr. Emanuel declined a formal interview for this article.

First the timing. Rahm’s worried enough about his looming failures to order up a big Times profile for himself, in addition to all the scapegoating stories he’s planting. He wants you to concentrate on the 9-0 legislative victory (or whatever he is claiming), and ignore that instead of the health care we were promised, we got corporate welfare (and hell–a lot of those "victories" were just corporate welfare, too!).

Next: Obama’s getting fed up with the collapse of "no drama Obama" brand, which (as I pointed out), started eroding the moment he picked Rahm.

But finally, check out that last line: as a result of Obama’s edict against these kinds of profiles, Rahm "declined a formal interview for this article." Not, "Rahm declined to cooperate with this article," but declined a formal interview. Which presumably is Rahm-speak for "insisted on meeting in an undisclosed location rather than his White House office." Insisted on anonymous quotes rather than on-the-record ones. Insisted on a thin disguise for his involvement in it.

Obama said, "stop this shit," and Rahm turned right around and got himself plastered in the NYT.

That’s the environment in which Holder is about to announce an investigation into torture, and Rahm is sure to be doing everything he can to turn it into a whitewash. That’s the environment in which Rahm is fixing to blame his own health care failures on any transparency on torture.

And we’ve got to make sure it doesn’t happen.

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Marcy Wheeler aka Emptywheel is an American journalist whose reporting specializes in security and civil liberties.