Friday, January 16, 2009

Looking ahead

I will not be attending Barack Obama's inauguration this week. Even if I were in the USA, I doubt I would attend. Too many people. But I am following closely the changes in Washington, DC, as hopeful as anyone about what a new administration could mean. It's not too difficult to ascertain my perspective on a variety of issues that the new president will face. On the issue of criminal investigations, for example, I'm hopeful that when the new administration is in place, people in the Bush Administration who committed crimes will be prosecuted.

I think most people understand at some level that a really fundamental reassessment of the past is necessary. How did things go so wrong? I came across one explanation today in an article by in The Atlantic. The author makes some very good points about the failings of the presidency as a legal institution. He's certainly not the first to note these failings. For example, Larry Bartels, who in a recent book documented the systematic bias of Republican administrations to favor the wealthy, has also written a lot about this issue.

But - many of the changes discussed by Garrett Epps and others require constitutional changes. These would be difficult to contemplate at any moment, and at the moment such matters are likely to be fairly far down the "to do" list for most Americans. Too bad, because the systemic problems of US governance are what allowed Bush the power to do so much damage.