Glenn Greenwald vs. Chuck Todd

Glenn Greenwald’s interview of the Beltway Conventional Wisdom Chuck Todd is pretty extraordinary. It’s hard to imagine a more vivid illustration of two world views colliding: that of someone who believes in the rule of law and someone who thrives in the Beltway petri dish of insiderism and self-congratulatory hackery. Todd dismisses upholding the rule of law as “idealistic” and any effort to apply US law to the actions of Bush officials as something that isn’t possible, as far as I can tell, because Washington DC wasn’t constructed on the summit of Mount Everest.

Todd espouses a fundamental problem with the notion that any efforts to hold Bush officials to account through investigations and prosecutions would lead to political debates on cable TV. I don’t get this objection. What is wrong with the country hearing a debate between people who want to enforce the law and people that want to sweep lawbreaking under the rug, even if the former tend to be Democrats and the later tend to be Republicans and Beltway journalists like Chuck Todd? Would it be political because the American people would be so repulsed by the GOP desire to establish a separate system of justice for Republican political elites who controlled the country for eight years from the Bush White House, and as a result GOP electoral prospects would be hurt? Todd never really elucidates why a legal process being perceived from the outside as political is actually bad. Glenn asks him what’s wrong with there being a national, nightly debate on torture and the rule of law, but Todd seems to use the word political as a catch-all excuse that is functionally vacuous.

In the end, while Greenwald and Todd have a long conversation, I am left feeling repulsed by the attitudes Todd displays, as one of Washington’s premier political journalists, towards investigating wrongdoing perpetrated by politicians and their staff. It shouldn’t be hard for a journalist to say there should be openness and accountability in government (especially in regards to clearly illegal actions), but Todd utterly resists any of Greenwald’s arguments from having a place in reality. Apparently while Todd can intellectually grasp what should happen in an “ideal” America, he doesn’t believe the America of our ideas exists in “reality.” That one of the biggest names in the DC press has such a low opinion of America as it exists today is simply depressing. As a result, I doubt we’ll ever see Chuck Todd or his peers in the Beltway elite ever endorse the validity of meaningful investigations into the crimes of the Bush administration. This behavior almost certainly reduces the likelihood that such investigations will ever actually exist, as it’s clear the White House is inclined to take significant cues from the Beltway Conventional Wisdom machine on this issue.

You can read the transcript here or listen to the audio here.

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