Reading, then turning, the page

READING, THEN TURNING, THE PAGE…. Discussion over how (and whether) to hold Bush administration officials accountable for possible criminal wrongdoing has slipped a bit — a debate over the future of the American economy will do that — but at least one high-profile senator hasn’t forgotten.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy insisted on Monday in firm and passionate terms that a comprehensive investigation be launched into the conduct of the Bush administration, saying anything less would prevent the country from moving forward.

Speaking at a forum at Georgetown University, the Vermont Democrat suggested the creation of a truth and reconciliation commission to uncover the “misdeeds” of the past eight years.

“Many Americans feel we need to get to the bottom of what went wrong,” said Leahy. “I agree. We need to be able to read the page before we turn the page.”

For Leahy, the notion of a reconciliation commission is itself a compromise — the effort would be somewhere between prosecution and nothing. The point, Leahy said, would not be to “humiliate people or punish people, but to get the truth out, so we don’t make the same mistakes again…. We fought [a] revolution in this country so we could protest the actions of government. We should protect that.”

The Judiciary Committee chairman apparently takes this seriously. Sam Stein noted, “At one point, Leahy slammed the lectern with his right fist, underscoring the emotion he brought to the debate.”

As for the implementation of such an idea, Leahy explained after the speech that he envisions a commission, which he has not yet discussed with the administration, that would review everything from Bush’s torture policies to the deceptions that led to the war in Iraq.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) has already raised the specter of an independent panel to investigate Bush-era abuses. No word yet on whether Leahy will coordinate with Conyers on this.

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