No Comment — February 9, 2009, 4:08 pm

Leahy: Create a Truth Commission Now

In a significant speech delivered today at Georgetown University, Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy endorsed the call of House Judiciary Chair John Conyers for a blue-ribbon panel to investigate criminal misconduct that occurred in the Bush Administration’s Justice Department. In the last two weeks, the House and Senate Democratic leadership appear to have united behind the measure. From Leahy’s remarks:

Many Americans feel we need to get to the bottom of what went wrong. I agree. We need to be able to read the page before we turn the page. We’ll work with the Obama administration to fix those parts of our government that went off course. The office of legal counsel to the Justice Department is one of those institutions that was hijacked. It must be restored. There has to be review and revision of the office’s legal work of the past eight years. So much of that work was kept secret.

…What is the best course for bringing a reckoning for the actions of the past eight years on everything from torture to illegal wiretapping? There are some who resist any effort to investigate the misdeeds of the recent past. Indeed, during the nomination hearing of Eric Holder some of my fellow senators on the other side of the aisle tried to extract a devil’s bargain from him in exchange for their votes; a commitment that he would not prosecute for anything that happened on President Bush’s watch. That is a pledge no prosecutor should give. And Eric Holder did not give it. But because he did not, it accounts for some of the votes against him. That is not the example we should give in a country that believes in the rule of law and believes no one is above the law.

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Editor's Note

Many comedians consider stand-up the purest form of comedy; Doug Stanhope considers it the freest. “Once you do stand-up, it spoils you for everything else,” he says. “You’re the director, performer, and producer.” Unlike most of his peers, however, Stanhope has designed his career around exploring that freedom, which means choosing a life on the road. Perhaps this is why, although he is extremely ambitious, prolific, and one of the best stand-ups performing, so many Americans haven’t heard of him. Many comedians approach the road as a means to an end: a way to develop their skills, start booking bigger venues, and, if they’re lucky, get themselves airlifted to Hollywood. But life isn’t happening on a sit-com set or a sketch show — at least not the life that has interested Stanhope. He isn’t waiting to be invited to the party; indeed, he’s been hosting his own party for years.

Because of the present comedy boom, civilians are starting to hear about Doug Stanhope from other comedians like Ricky Gervais, Sarah Silverman, and Louis CK. But Stanhope has been building a devoted fan base for the past two decades, largely by word of mouth. On tour, he prefers the unencumbered arrival and the quick exit: cheap motels where you can pull the van up to the door of the room and park. He’s especially pleased if there’s an on-site bar, which increases the odds of hearing a good story from the sort of person who tends to drink away the afternoon in the depressed cities where he performs. Stanhope’s America isn’t the one still yammering on about its potential or struggling with losing hope. For the most part, hope is gone. On Word of Mouth, his 2002 album, he says, “America may be the best country, but that’s like being the prettiest Denny’s waitress. Just because you’re the best doesn’t make you good.”

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