With so much talk about “moving forward,” FCP decided to consult Marcia Chambers about this very unusual reluctance to hold law breakers accountable. Ms. Chambers has taught journalism at Columbia and Yale, and she has written for The New York Times as a reporter and a contributor for more than three decades. She also has the highest standards and the best instincts of any criminal justice reporter FCP has ever known. This is what she said:

In the old days there wasn’t all this angst about investigating public officials. It was understood that elected officials who hold the public trust are held to a higher standard than others, even others who commit crimes. When New York City cops were accused of corruption in the 1970’s, the Knapp Commission was formed to investigate. It was also routine for special grand juries to investigate public officials, and if there wasn’t sufficient evidence to indict, the panel might issue a report on its findings in order to examine a system or a process. The idea was accountability, an idea so obvious that it is difficult to understand why people are having such trouble with it now.

On the federal level, there were a number of investigations of the Iran Contra scandal that engulfed the Ronald Reagan presidency. The purpose of the 1986-87 Iran-Contra inquiries was to investigate possible crimes. It would have been unthinkable back then to say, let’s just move on, let’s put it behind us. We didn’t do it then. We shouldn’t do it now. The purpose of the law hasn’t changed.


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Charles Kaiser is the author of The Gay Metropolis and 1968 in America. He has been media editor for Newsweek, a member of the metro staff of The New York Times, and a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, where he covered the press and book publishing. To learn more, visit charleskaiser.com.