Jonah Goldberg
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Forget about where you come down on "torture" or "enhanced interrogations." The simple fact is that, as a political matter, the drive for a "truth commission" -- never mind a war crimes tribunal -- is dead as long as Nancy Pelosi is the speaker of the House.

And while I oppose the sort of witch hunt Pelosi and her energumens clearly crave, this isn't necessarily good news.

Pelosi is blocking the road to ritual human sacrifice because there's ample evidence that she was complicit in what she righteously condemns as torture. Principled opponents of the CIA's program insist that what Pelosi knew and when she knew it is irrelevant to the substantive issues at stake.

And they are absolutely right.

If you honestly think waterboarding is criminal torture -- I don't -- then Pelosi's approval of it is unfortunate and indicts her too, but it doesn't change the fact that crimes were committed. The problem for the Democrats is that politically, they cannot excuse their own leader while setting up a Nuremberg trial for Republican officials and honest lawyers who were merely doing their job. War crimes cannot only be war crimes when committed by Republicans.

A relevant example of the left's predicament can be found in the defenestration of former Louisiana Rep. Bob Livingston during President Clinton's impeachment. Then speaker-elect, Livingston was exposed for having an affair at precisely the moment the GOP-run House was poised to impeach Clinton for his perjury about adultery with an intern. They couldn't advance on Clinton with Livingston at the helm. The Clintonites understood this, which is why they implored Livingston not to resign.

But Livingston couldn't stand in the way of the tide, and did resign. Whether his transgressions were comparable to Clinton's was a moot point. Politically, Livingston had to get out of the way.

Now Pelosi is in the way. It's unclear if this was inevitable. If she had handled things differently, she might not have become a roadblock. But in her vanity, she couldn't admit wrongdoing or allow that the people she's demonized might not be villains.

Like a driver stuck in the mud, Pelosi has thrown herself into reverse, and every other gear imaginable, trying to get herself out of the ditch. Now everything she does just makes things worse and sprays a fine mist of mud and muck on everyone around her.

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Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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