Saturday, March 08, 2008

A legacy of torture

Other than John McCain, who spent the week watching the Democrats make their best effort to self-destruct before their nominating process comes to an end in early summer, the happiest Republican in the United States has to be George W. Bush. I mean, how would you feel if almost everyone -- with the exception of a few loyal sycophants and the right-wing media echo chamber -- thought you were either the worst president ever or the second worst president ever, behind James Buchanan, whose main accomplishment was to steer the nation towards the Civil War, and still . . . still . . . you could get everything you wanted. Remember the big fuss over Mr. 33%, how his "relevance" had disappeared, how he would have to serve out the rest of his term in isolation, so radioactive was he among members of his own party, forgetting, for now, the Democrats glee in watching the man that almost 50% of the country didn't want to elect in either 2000 or 2004?

Well, well, well . . . it looks like the Decider will win again, beating back the Democrats who pledged, after their 2006 victories, to reign the excesses of his crazy-ass foreign policy, on the torture issue.

You heard me. President Bush just vetoed a bill that would have banned the C.I.A. from using torture when interrogating suspected terrorists. The legislation explicitly banned "waterboarding," which almost no one disputes is an interrogation method that qualifies as torture. In his weekly radio address, the president said that the C.I.A. must possess absolute power to extract information from suspected terrorists. “Because the danger remains," he told Americans earlier today, "we need to ensure our intelligence officials have all the tools they need to stop the terrorists.”

Incredible. The president of the United States is now on record, more so than ever before, of condoning torture and ensuring that it remains available to the C.I.A. and, presumably any executive branch or military agency that interrogates prisoners held on terrorism charges. Presidents have always sought to expand executive power, especially in times of perceived or real crisis, to protect and carry out their prerogatives. Bush's success in expanding executive power at the expense of Congress has been extraordinarily successful.

Still . . . incredible. The United States crosses over to the dark side on torture, and Congress cannot and will not do anything to stop the president. Eight of the president's 10 vetoes since taking office in 2001 have come since November 2006, when the Democrats took control of Congress. The Democratic Congress has only overridden one of Bush's vetoes, a $34 billion water bill that contained enough goodies to encourage Democrats and Republicans to join hands to preserve their joint largess. No one believes the Democrats will have the votes to override this veto.

As disappointing and scary as the president's decision to allow torture might be, can you imagine what the world would like if most Americans actually liked and respected him? Do you want to?

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