One point worth making, repeatedly, is that the "Look Forward" crowd is effectively calling for a sliding scale of justice. I try to avoid broad statements like this, but in this case, there really is no way out--A "Look Forward," approach is, at its core, an endorsement for kind of justice for the politically powerful and connected, and another for those who aren't. Rebutting Roger Cohen, Adam makes this point perfectly:
I agree with Cohen that the press failed miserably in the aftermath of
9/11, but given that the coverage of the torture debate has focused not
on whether American officials broke the law but rather how the
president might be weathering the political storm surrounding the
release of the torture memos, I'd suggest that the press really isn't
done failing yet.
Cohen's argument simply reflects the consensus among certain
journalistic and political elites that the powerful simply shouldn't be
held accountable when they make mistakes, because, after all, we all
make mistakes. This compassionate attitude naturally doesn't extend
beyond this small group. America has the highest incarceration rate
in the world, fully 1 percent of the population. I'm sure there are
millions of people currently incarcerated who would like it if Cohen's
policy of absolution for crimes was extended to them.
There really two great points there--the first being about how the press is still failing on torture, by looking at it from the horse-race perspective. Back on topic, the second points out who gets what justice, and what kind. It's amazing that in a column rightfully detailing the Orwellian use of language by the Bushies, Cohen terms investigating torture abuses, "retribution." This is, indeed, some justice. It's not retribution to, say, try someone for a robbery they committed five years ago, that's the "the system working." But it is retribution to try ask that a man who is a sitting judge be investigated, for potentially skirting the law. To accept the "Look Forward" argument, you have to accept that the enforcement arm of government will, as policy, give some people "compassion" and withhold it from others, on the basis of power.
Matt advances the ball:
I would even take this beyond prison. The United States isn't run
along Social Darwinist lines, but we're closer than any other major
developed country. To an extent that I find frankly astounding--and
certainly unseen in other wealthy nations--people from modest
backgrounds are expected to suffer the economic consequences of poor
decision-making or bad luck, all in the name of personal
responsibility. But when someone really important screws up,
either in terms of provoking a financial crisis or overseeing a policy
disaster or breaking the law or whatever, well then it turns out that
we have better things to do than "look backwards" at who deserves what.
Let me make this even more personal. Endorsing justice, consequences, and "personal responsibility" for poor black fathers, as Obama does for instance, is moral, upstanding, and honest. Endorsing justice, consequences and "personal responsibility" for your colleagues who are charged with safegaurding the future of hundreds of millions of people is, apparently, mere retribution. What a joke.