Can’t take ‘yes’ for an answer

CAN’T TAKE ‘YES’ FOR AN ANSWER…. For months, a wide variety of Democratic officials and leading progressive voices insisted that some kind of investigation of Bush-era torture, possibly through a “truth commission,” would serve the nation’s interests. The idea was going nowhere fast — the Obama White House discouraged the idea, and congressional Republicans were staunchly opposed. In time, proponents grew discouraged, and predicted that their efforts would likely come up short.

And that’s the irony of the Republicans’ attack on Speaker Pelosi. The idea, by all appearances, was to intimidate Democrats — if Dems wanted to look into Bush’s policies, the GOP would want the same probe to look into Dems’ activities during the same period. As Matt Yglesias explained very well, the tactic seems to be backfiring.

What conservatives are missing here is that this is a fight they were winning before they started gunning for Pelosi. Their best ally in this fight was Barack Obama, whose desire to “move forward” rather than focusing on the past had been the subject of much consternation. Had conservatives simply reached out to grab the hand that was being extended to them, they could have gotten what they wanted.

But in their zeal to score a tactical win, the right has made a truth commission more likely not less likely. Obama wanted to avoid a backward-looking focus on torture in part because it distracted from his legislative agenda. But if we’re going to be looking backward anyway, thanks to conservatives’ insistence on complaining about Pelosi, then the move forward strategy lacks a rationale. And far from forcing a standoff in which Pelosi will abandon her support for an investigation, the right has forced her into a corner from which she can’t give in to moderate Democrats’ opposition to such a move without looking like she’s cravenly attempting to save her own skin.

Exactly. Republicans were getting exactly the result they wanted, right up until they thought to go after Pelosi. Now, the liberal Democratic House Speaker and the conservative Republican RNC chairman are saying the same thing: let’s investigate and get the whole story.

Indeed, Pelosi has been using this to great effect. When the right argues that she’s lying or was somehow complicit in Bush’s alleged crimes, she always responds with the same compelling answer: “Let’s have an investigation and see who’s right.”

As far as the strategy goes, Republicans should have taken “yes” for an answer.