Jane Meyer in the New Yorker on the Senate CIA torture report (boldface mine):
There was a way to address the matter that might have avoided much of the partisan trivialization. In a White House meeting in early 2009, Greg Craig, President Obama’s White House Counsel, recommended the formation of an independent commission. Nearly every adviser in the room endorsed the idea, including such national-security hawks as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and the President’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. Leon Panetta, the C.I.A. director at the time, also supported it. Obama, however, said that he didn’t want to seem to be taking punitive measures against his predecessor, apparently because he still hoped to reach bipartisan agreement on issues such as closing Guantánamo….
Rejali, who has studied the tension between torture and democracy around the world, says that “there’s a five- or six-year window for any kind of accountability. We’re now past that window. The two sides are entrenched.” Without a mutual acknowledgment of the mistakes made, and some form of accountability, he warned, another reversion to torture may be difficult to prevent: “Nothing predicts future behavior as much as past impunity.”
What Obama never seemed to realize–and perhaps still doesn’t–is that on so many issues, torture being just one of them, you could never get good policy without accountability. Helping Republicans save face would not be reciprocated, it would only allow them to ignore any culpability.
It might have been the single greatest missed opportunity for political and social reformation since the demise of Reconstruction. We will all pay for it, even those of us who thought it was a foolish (non-)policy.