One can easily imagine the defense strategy, which will start by calling to the stand various Democratic senators and representatives who had been informed of the interrogation tactics and did not publicly object to them at the time. The testimony would surely be entertaining, as the politicians would be put in the impossible position of either admitting their moral complicity, which would make the entire trial look like a political show trial designed to punish Republicans but not Democrats, or looking like cowards who knew that the government was breaking the law but despite their oath to the Constitution were unwilling to do anything about it. Do Obama and Holder really want to put leaders of their own party in Congress in this position?
That’s a good question and it seems like the answer is “no.” Of course another question is whether or not desire to spare some congressional Democrats political embarrassment is a good reason to let people get away with breaking the law.
A related issue has to do with why the congressional investigations into pre-war intelligence malfeasance were so pathetic. I’ve longed maintained that a big part of the reason is simply that there’s no way to understand the extent of the Bush administration’s misdeeds that doesn’t also make a lot of congressional Democrats look ridiculous. At the time this was being investigated, the top Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee was Jay Rockefeller whose own statements about Iraq and WMD in October 2002 were every bit as misleading as Bush’s. And Rockefeller was on the intelligence committee when he gave that speech. Some congressional Democrats—Nancy Pelosi, Dick Durbin, Carl Levin—were doing their jobs during that period, but a lot of intel committee folks were simply failing to do oversight.
But to say that many Democrats, including Barack Obama, have good political reasons for wanting to drop these subjects isn’t the same as saying that they have good reasons for wanting to drop these subjects.