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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Walter Jones, GOP Congressman, Signs On To Investigating Bush

Sam Stein

There is, in fact, an element of bipartisan support for creating of a truth and reconciliation committee to investigate illegalities from the Bush years. And it comes from within Congress.

Rep. Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican, has signed on as a co-sponsor of legislation introduced by House Judiciary Chair John Conyers to establish "a national commission on presidential war powers and civil liberties."

A self-described conservative who brought "Freedom Fries" to Congress, Jones developed into one of the most vocal Republican critics of the Bush administration. He took particular umbrage at the handling of the Iraq War and the decision to prohibit photographs of returning coffins of American soldiers. Late in the past administration's time in office he was reported to have been reading Vincent Bugliosi's book, "The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder."

So while it is surprising to see an elected Republican official endorse the establishment of an investigatory committee to probe the Bush years, it is slightly less surprising that that official is Jones.

Nevertheless, Democrats on the Hill who are committed to the idea are ecstatic to have the congressman on board. Jones' office did not return repeated requests for comment.

As for what the Obama administration thinks of the matter, that remains shrouded in a bit of mystery. I asked the president about Sen. Patrick Leahy's proposal for a truth and reconciliation committee at his Monday night press conference. He responded that he had would not comment on a proposal he had not seen. Asked on Friday whether the White House was in a better position to offer an opinion and if not, when, a spokesman replied: "I don't have a timetable to share... I will keep you updated if there is movement."

In the meantime, polling firms are beginning to take the issue seriously enough to gauge public opinion. The results are somewhat mixed, but they certainly demonstrate that the notion of investigating the Bush administration for possible illegal activities is not a revenge fantasy of the fringe "left."

A USA Today/Gallup poll showed that 38 percent of Americans support launching criminal investigations into the use of torture and warrantless wiretapping, while 41 percent support criminal investigations of Justice Department politicization. Thirty percent support setting up an "independent panel" to investigate what happened at DOJ, while roughly 25 percent support an independent investigation into warrantless wiretapping and the authorization of torture.

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