Support for accountability

SUPPORT FOR ACCOUNTABILITY…. It seems likely that some Democratic policymakers are reluctant to investigate Bush administration wrongdoing because they fear a public backlash. There’s a perception that Americans don’t want officials to look “backwards,” so the majority party, the argument goes, doesn’t want to get sidetracked from its forward-thinking agenda.

But if fear of public attitudes is a principal concern, those who would prefer to sidestep accountability appear to have lost a talking point.

Even as Americans struggle with two wars and an economy in tatters, a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds majorities in favor of investigating some of the thorniest unfinished business from the Bush administration: Whether its tactics in the “war on terror” broke the law.

Close to two-thirds of those surveyed said there should be investigations into allegations that the Bush team used torture to interrogate terrorism suspects and its program of wiretapping U.S. citizens without getting warrants. Almost four in 10 favor criminal investigations and about a quarter want investigations without criminal charges. One-third said they want nothing to be done.

Even more people want action on alleged attempts by the Bush team to use the Justice Department for political purposes. Four in 10 favored a criminal probe, three in 10 an independent panel, and 25% neither.

This has taken on added significance of late, with the chairmen of both Judiciary Committees — Pat Leahy in the Senate and John Conyers in the House — expressing support for some kind of legal review of alleged misconduct and/or criminal behavior in the previous administration.

We’ll see if a poll like this one gives their effort a little momentum.