When we get past the hagiography contained in Newsweek’s portrayal of Eric Holder, we learn that he is wrestling with the idea of appointing a prosecutor “to investigate the Bush administration’s brutal interrogation practices.” There has been a lot of back-and-forth on this issue; we are confronted with reports that the Obama Administration may investigate its predecessors, then we learn that the President wants to “move on,” only to learn later that the Attorney-General may not want to move on.
We can talk about the politics and propriety of any prosecution some other time, but to say the least, this is not how to run a Justice Department. The awesome power of the federal government and its ability to prosecute is not one that ought to be handled in a trifling manner, and yet, the Obama Administration’s fickleness demonstrates a lack of seriousness when it comes to addressing and handling potential prosecutions. To put matters colloquially, the Spider-Man rule should be in effect when it comes to decisions to prosecute; with great power comes great responsibility.
Given the ability of any prosecutorial effort to make the lives of prosecutorial targets utterly and completely miserable, the decision to prosecute ought to be taken with care, in secrecy (and that means no leaks), and when a decision is ultimately made, it ought to be made with finality. To be sure, Republicans and Democrats have both been imperfect when it comes to administering prosecutorial power responsibly, but that doesn’t excuse the Obama Administration’s meandering when it comes to deciding whether to prosecute Bush Administration officials for their decisions.
At this point, the Administration should make a final, determinative decision on whether to prosecute. No more of this public dilly-dallying. The more the Administration strings this issue along and collectively plays Hamlet on the Potomac, the less seriously we can take their administration of justice. One expects more from Eric Holder than an imitation of Alberto Gonzales, after all.