Barack Obama Is Smart Not to Investigate George W. Bush

People aren't crying out for an investigation.

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By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

I have to respectfully disagree with Bonnie's take on Obama's needle-threading regarding the extent to which his administration will investigate the Bush administration.

When I saw the story on the front page of today's Times noting Obama's reluctance to prosecute Bushies, my first thought was: Well, that'll piss off the lefty blogs. My second thought was: It should surprise no one. My (much later) third thought: It's smart politics.

It should surprise no one because presidents prefer to focus their years in office on their agenda and accomplishments, not their predecessors'. And this particular president campaigned on the idea of moving past Washington's partisan wars. The smart way to illustrate that is not to make one of your first acts in office launching an investigation (with an eye toward prosecutions) of your predecessor.

Bonnie argues: "Even most conservatives, at this point, are so frustrated with the excesses of the Bush administration that they wouldn't mind seeing some of its high-level perpetrators prosecuted."

Even if this is true, it misses the point: Most voters are not liberal political activists and are not conservative political activists.

Here's how most voters would react if Obama kicked off his term by launching an investigation into Bush: Seriously? The economy's crumbling, I'm afraid I'm going to lose my job (or alternately, I'm afraid I'll never find a job again), we've got troops fighting in two countries abroad, and he's investigating Dick Cheney?

Which is why Obama's decision to move on from the Bush years is smart politics: He needs to focus on the majority of voters who are worried about day-to-day issues, not about (what they would very likely perceive as) political payback.

Hey, correct me if I'm wrong, but I haven't seen any polls that place "investigating the Bush administration" high on (or even on at all) voters' priority list for the Obama administration.

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