The Virtue of Consequences


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For every decision we make, there’s a consequence … but not for our little Decider. No, he can just have tantrum after tantrum, pretend to be the wisest of the wise, the “Good Father” in what has turned into the silently incestuous household of a horrified, cowering nation and there will be no consequences — he has spent a lifetime avoiding them, he doesn’t have a CLUE what they feel like; it will be up to us to instruct him.

Now he’s telling us if there’s no Mukasey, there will be no AG — he’s the Decider, and he says so. If he can’t get his way, he’ll leave the Judicial branch waving in the wind. What does he care? They’re just his gopher’s, anyhow.

If we need another lesson in abuse of authority, we’ve got it. Stunning, isn’t it??? And Mr. Mukasey seems to have fallen under his spell of twisted authority, as well — he’s no Fredo … but he’s “not sure,” either. And — as big Teddy K. sez — that’s not good enough.

Dennis Kucinich has been taking it in the shorts for his demand that Bush/Cheney be impeached [and for UFO's, but that's another story -- read about both here and here. He's also questioned Bush's sanity ... but gee, who hasn't?!]

Dennis has it right; these two have plenty to pay for. Our first big error was in letting Nixon off the hook for his extra-legal transgressions — some things simply can’t be ignored, some things MUST be carved in stone for the good of the whole … fixed, unflappable things — like the Constitution, for instance. If we’d had a thorough enough object lesson back then, would we be here now?

The concept of “carrots and sticks” drives the 3D political process — where’s our stick? I’m sure we’ve got one, all of us looking on in dismay … we need to drag it out, whomp it up, conjure it … we need to beat the little Decider into submission with it. Because if there are no consequences, there is only chaos … and chaos is the signature energy of George W. Bush. It’s time for Karma to kick in … and for us all to pick up a stick and storm the castle.

Chuck Schumer, by the way, has still not announced his vote; he’s the one who proposed Mukasey in the first place … he’s dragging his feet on a “no” vote with the rest of the Dems. There’s a number below in the PM Carpenter piece, if you wish to encourage him. As well, you’ll find a Bonus Read by John Dean, last.

Note: I’m traveling this weekend and will, hopefully, pick up the blog next week from Tucson.

Jude

Bush: No Attorney General if Not Mukasey
Laurie Kellman, Associated Press
Thursday 01 November 2007

President Bush sought to save Michael Mukasey’s troubled nomination for attorney general Thursday, defending the retired judge’s refusal to say whether he considers waterboarding torture and warning of a leaderless Justice Department if Democrats do not confirm him.

“If the Senate Judiciary Committee were to block Judge Mukasey on these grounds, they would set a new standard for confirmation that could not be met by any responsible nominee for attorney general,” Bush said in a speech at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

“That would guarantee that America would have no attorney general during this time of war,” the president said.

The comment raised questions about whether Bush would nominate anyone else to succeed Alberto Gonzales as the nation’s top law enforcer. Bush could bypass Congress by filling the job with someone serving in an acting capacity over the last 14 months of his administration.

Asked whether Bush was saying he would not nominate anyone if Mukasey were to be rejected, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said, “We don’t believe it would come to that. No nominee could meet the test they’ve presented.”

Despite that prospect, more Senate Democrats announced their opposition to Mukasey. Most cited his refusal to say whether waterboarding, an interrogation technique that uses the threat of drowning to elicit answers, amounts to torture and thus is illegal under constitutional, domestic and international law.

The Senate Judiciary Committee plans a test vote Tuesday on the nomination. Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., became the fourth of 10 Democrats on the 19-member committee to say he will vote against advancing the nomination to the full Senate.

Kennedy said Mukasey’s unwillingness to give a definitive answer on the torture question increased the chances that the technique could be used against U.S. troops.

“I therefore intend to oppose this nomination,” Kennedy said in the full Senate. “Judge Mukasey appears to be a careful, conscientious and intelligent lawyer and he has served our country honorably for many years. But those qualities are not enough for this critical position at this critical time.”

Democratic Sens. Joe Biden of Delaware, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island and Dick Durbin of Illinois said this week they will vote “no” in committee. Assuming that all nine of the Republicans on the committee vote for Mukasey, only one Democrat would have to side with the president for the nomination to move to the full Senate with a favorable recommendation.

So far, the other Democrats on the committee have declined to announce their positions. That includes Mukasey’s chief Democratic sponsor, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Failure in committee most likely would kill the nomination. In a potentially ominous sign for the Bush administration, Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters he could not guarantee a floor Senate vote if the nomination fails in committee.

“I really believe in the committee process,” said Reid, who has not said how he would vote. “If I’m asked by members of the committee to stay out of the fray, I am willing to do that.”

The news was not all bad for the White House.

Two Republicans who were troubled by Mukasey’s initial answers announced they would vote for him if the nomination were to reach the full Senate.

But in a letter to Mukasey, GOP Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina urged the nominee never to let waterboarding be used if he were to become attorney general.

Still, signs abounded that Mukasey’s nomination was in trouble. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who is not on the Judiciary Committee, declared his opposition.

The president, signaling his concern, took the unusual step of summoning reporters to the Oval Office to complain about the holdup.

Bush said it was unfair to ask Mukasey about interrogation techniques about which he has not been briefed. “He doesn’t know whether we use that technique or not,” the president said during the session.

Further, Bush said, “It doesn’t make any sense to tell an enemy what we’re doing.”

Bush urged swift approval of Mukasey, saying the U.S. needs an attorney general on the job to help with the fight against terrorism.

Without saying whether interrogators use waterboarding, Bush said, “The American people must know that whatever techniques we use are within the law.”

Asked whether he considers waterboarding legal, Bush replied, “I’m not going to talk about techniques. There’s an enemy out there.”

For the fourth day in a row, no comment on a Mukasey vote was forthcoming from Schumer, the media-savvy lawmaker who led the probe that pressured Gonzales to quit and who suggested Mukasey as his replacement.

“I do not think Democrats are mistreating him at all,” Schumer told reporters.

In the Oval Office, Bush said he was concerned that some people “have lost sight of the fact that we are at war with extremists and radicals who want to attack us again.” He said it was important that Congress approve the laws, financing and personnel necessary to fight U.S. enemies.

He said the Senate’s failure to confirm Mukasey promptly was “not good for the country.”

Torture and the Attorneys General
New York Times editorial
November 1, 2007

Consider how President Bush has degraded the office of attorney general.

His first choice, John Ashcroft, helped railroad undue restrictions of civil liberties through Congress after the 9/11 attacks. Mr. Ashcroft apparently had some red lines and later rebuffed the White House when it pushed him to endorse illegal wiretapping. Then came Alberto Gonzales who, while he was White House counsel, helped to redefine torture, repudiate the Geneva Conventions and create illegal detention camps. As attorney general, Mr. Gonzales helped cover up the administration’s lawless behavior in anti-terrorist operations, helped revoke fundamental human rights for foreigners and turned the Justice Department into a branch of the Republican National Committee.

Mr. Gonzales resigned after his extraordinary incompetence became too much for even loyal Republicans. Now Mr. Bush wants the Senate to confirm Michael Mukasey, a well-respected trial judge in New York who has stunned us during the confirmation process by saying he believes the president has the power to negate laws and by not committing himself to enforcing Congressional subpoenas. He also has suggested that he will not uphold standards of decency during wartime recognized by the civilized world for generations.

After a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in which Mr. Mukasey refused to detail his views on torture, he submitted written answers to senators’ questions that were worse than his testimony. They suggest that he, like Mr. Gonzales, would enable Mr. Bush’s lawless behavior and his imperial attitude toward Congress and the courts.

In a letter to the 10 Democrats on the committee, Mr. Mukasey refused to say whether he considered waterboarding (a method of extracting information by making a prisoner believe he is about to be drowned) to be torture. He said he found it “repugnant,” but could not say whether it is illegal until he has been briefed on the interrogation programs that Mr. Bush authorized at Central Intelligence Agency prisons.

This is a crass dodge. Waterboarding is torture and was prosecuted as such as far back as 1902 by the United States military when used in a slightly different form on insurgents in the Philippines. It meets the definition of torture that existed in American law and international treaties until Mr. Bush changed those rules. Even the awful laws on the treatment of detainees that were passed in 2006 prohibited the use of waterboarding by the American military.

And yet the nominee for attorney general has no view on whether it would be legal for an employee of the United States government to subject a prisoner to that treatment? The only information Mr. Mukasey can possibly be lacking is whether Mr. Bush broke the law by authorizing the C.I.A. to use waterboarding — a judgment that the White House clearly does not want him to render in public because it could expose a host of officials to criminal accountability.

Mr. Mukasey’s letter to the Senate committee accepts the administration’s use of the so-called shocks-the-conscience test to determine the legality of interrogation methods, rather than the clear and specific prohibitions against torture, humiliation and cruel treatment embedded in American and international law. The administration’s standard is dangerously vague, invites abuse and amounts to a unilateral reinterpretation of the Geneva Conventions. Would Mr. Mukasey approve of a foreign jailer using waterboarding on an American soldier? Mr. Bush’s policies increase the danger of that happening.

There seems to be little chance that Mr. Bush will appoint the sort of attorney general that the nation needs, a job that includes enforcing voting rights laws and civil rights laws and ensuring that criminal prosecutions are done fairly. Still, senators with a conscience that can be shocked should insist that Mr. Bush meet a higher standard than this nomination.

Mr. Mukasey and Torture
The Senate should confirm the former and ban the latter.
Washington Post editorial
Friday, November 2, 2007

IT IS EXTRAORDINARY that a man who rightly would have been confirmed with overwhelming support had he been President Bush’s first nominee for attorney general may now be denied that post in the waning months of the administration. Just as extraordinary is Mr. Bush’s campaign to salvage the nomination of Michael B. Mukasey. Yesterday, in a rare Oval Office meeting with reporters and later in a speech before the Heritage Foundation, Mr. Bush bemoaned the imperiled state of Mr. Mukasey’s nomination without one iota of self-awareness that the nomination is in trouble because of the president’s own warped policies on torture.

Mr. Mukasey is being judged not on his merits but as a proxy for Mr. Bush. Yet critics of the nomination, while understandably disturbed by Mr. Mukasey’s unwillingness to label waterboarding illegal, may be working against the last, best hope to see the rule of law reemerge in this administration.

Mr. Mukasey’s 172 pages of written responses to senators’ questions leave no doubt that he is a staunchly conservative lawyer. He believes the Second Amendment bestows an individual right to bear arms. He recoils at the idea of appointing a special prosecutor when, in his words, the “members of the Department have the integrity and ability to discharge whatever responsibilities they may have.” He embraces an expansive vision of presidential power that allows the president to ignore an “unconstitutional law” if it infringes on the powers of the executive.

This last view, when put into action by unqualified sycophants such as former attorney general Alberto R. Gonzales, leads to extreme and dangerous power grabs, not to mention grotesque distortions of the law that produce such results as the notorious 2002 “torture memo.”

But there are key differences between Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Mukasey. Mr. Gonzales, whose confirmation we opposed, had a hand in crafting the policy that encouraged Mr. Bush to ignore U.S. law and treaty obligations on torture prohibitions. Mr. Mukasey did not. Mr. Gonzales endorsed the go-it-alone approach that cut Congress out of a significant role in warrantless surveillance and the creation of military tribunals. While jealously guarding the president’s prerogatives, Mr. Mukasey seems to understand that the president’s power is strengthened — not diminished — when he acts in concert with Congress, and he has vowed to advocate such an approach. Mr. Gonzales lacked the moral compass to challenge Mr. Bush and some of his stronger-willed advisers. Mr. Mukasey has demonstrated the ethical fortitude required of an independent attorney general.

As we said this week, it is a shame for America to be led by a president who has countenanced waterboarding and other interrogation methods that most Americans would understand as torture. Mr. Mukasey got it right when he called waterboarding “repugnant”; like many senators, we wish he had also clearly stated that it is illegal. But to do so would have been likely to bring him into conflict with existing Justice Department memorandums that have been used by CIA interrogators and others to legitimize their actions. Mr. Mukasey has promised a careful review of each of those memorandums; if he is rejected, no nominee is likely to promise more in advance of confirmation.

Those senators who truly want to bring the nation back from the disgrace of Mr. Bush’s interrogation policies should do two things. They should confirm Mr. Mukasey, who is far more independent and qualified than either of Mr. Bush’s previous two nominees. And they should do something which, for all the rhetoric, they have so far declined to do: ban torture, by passing the National Security with Justice Act sponsored by Sen. Joseph R. Biden (D-Del.). The act would limit all United States personnel — military and civilian — to using only interrogation techniques authorized by the U.S. Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation, which expressly prohibits waterboarding and which military leaders have said gives them the tools they need to get reliable information from difficult subjects.

Today is “Help Chuck Decide” Day, so that there may be a better tomorrow
P.M. Carpenter
November 02, 2007

In addition to misguided loyalty, the security of a rubber stamp and a love of bumbling incompetence, at least one other reason for George having wanted the hapless Alberto to linger at Justice is now immensely conspicuous: A replacement — any replacement, no matter where he or she sat in the ideological spectrum — could, and perhaps even would, in time, land the Decider Guys in the hoosegow.

The administration’s thorny dilemma in the person of Michael Mukasey has made this delightful prospect deliciously clear.

Had the nominee testimonially smiled on the interrogation practice of waterboarding, his nomination would have been as dead as Jacob Marley, for sure. But it also would have had the unfortunate consequence — for the administration, that is — of advertising the administration’s illegality.

Had he properly condemned it as illegal, however, he would have “open[ed] up Pandora’s box,” according to one national security law professor: “Such a statement from an attorney general would override existing Justice Department legal opinions and create intense pressure from human rights groups to open a criminal investigation of interrogation practices.”

“You would ask not just who carried it out, but who specifically approved it,” said Scott Silliman of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke University.

“Theoretically, it could go all the way up to the president of the United States; that’s why [Mukasey will] never say it’s torture.”

And that, of course, is why he never did, even though he knows it is. Mukasey got muscled into the same, literal protection racket that Gonzales had so happily organized.

The administration always knew its authorized interrogation practices were grossly illegal; hence it lived in dread of any change at Justice that might bring an accounting one day closer.

As former Justice official Jack Goldsmith noted in his recent book, “The Terror Presidency”: “I witnessed top officials and bureaucrats in the White House and throughout the administration openly worrying that investigators, acting with the benefit of hindsight in a different political environment, would impose criminal penalties on heat-of-battle judgment calls.”

“Criminal penalties.” What a lovely, and overdue, phrase.

But for now, it’s crunch time not for the administration, but the United States Senate. Specifically, Senate Democrats; more specifically, Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee; and yet even more specifically, Democratic-member Senator Charles Schumer, who first recommended the compromised Musakey as the befuddled Gonzales’ replacement.

A confirmation vote in committee is scheduled for Tuesday. Astoundingly (or not), “If Mr. Mukasey’s nomination reaches the Senate floor, moderate Democrats appear likely to join Republicans to produce a majority for confirmation.”

That would be the “moderation” of confirming a continuing cover-up of some of the most despicable criminal acts ever committed by high-level officials. At Justice. In the White House. Its approving confirmation. Go figure.

But Mukasey’s nomination need not reach the Senate floor, just so Senate Democrats can further debase themselves, further stain the nation’s reputation, and commit yet another offense against national and international law and basic human decency.

As of this morning, it appears it all comes down to Chuck Schumer’s deciding vote. And what does indeed absolutely astound is that “Mr. Schumer says he is undecided.”

So let’s help Chuck decide, the poor dear. His number is 202-224-6542.

Crazy Bush Compares Democrats To Nazi Appeasers
Bob Cesca, HuffPo
November 1, 2007

Congressman Kucinich was absolutely correct on both counts: the UFO thing and the president’s mental stability thing. Here’s why. The UFO which Kucinich claims to have seen was, in fact, President Bush successfully landing his crazy jet on the flight deck of the USS Batshit. Your president at the Heritage Foundation Thursday:

    “History teaches that underestimating the words of evil, ambitious men is a terrible mistake. [...]

    In the 1920s, the world ignored the words of Hitler, as he explained his intention to build an Aryan super-state in Germany, take revenge on Europe, and eradicate the Jews — and the world paid a terrible price. His Nazi regime killed millions in the gas chambers, and set the world aflame in war, before it was finally defeated at a terrible cost in lives and treasure. [...]

    Bin Laden and his terrorist allies have made their intentions as clear as Lenin and Hitler before them. And the question is: Will we listen?”

These were just a few choice remarks pulled from a mostly horrible speech by the president in which he scolded the Democrats for being terrorist appeasers, simply because they’re not giving him everything he wants. I don’t even know where to begin to evaluate the insanity, but I had to review the video in order to make sure he didn’t end the speech by mounting Bancini’s shoulders and challenging Charlie Cheswick to a pick-up game of black jack in the tub room.

Let’s start with bin Laden and work up to the Nazi part.

President Bush has clearly forgotten that it wasn’t the Democrats who failed to capture Osama bin Laden. The sole responsibility for the failure to capture bin Laden, in fact, rests directly on the slumped little-man shoulders of George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States, due to his well-documented incompetence, hubris and myopia. He also went so far as to inexplicably shut down the CIA’s bin Laden unit. This has nothing to do with the Democrats. It was The Decider who decided to allow bin Laden to escape and to go on to bigger and better things, like an Evildoer Disney in northern Pakistan.

This demands restating.

The only reason bin Laden is any sort of threat here and now — a full six years after September 11– is strictly and in no uncertain terms the fault of George W. Bush.

The Democrats had nothing to do with this historically massive blunder. It wasn’t the Democrats who looked you and me in the eye and declared bin Laden “wanted dead or alive,” only to, a few months later, publicly confess to not spending much time on him.
Yet the president is shamelessly projecting his unforgivable failures onto Congress during this, his third public hissy in less than a week.

Not all of us, as George Carlin sublimely described to Keith Olbermann, have been bought off with toys and gadgets. We haven’t forgotten that Congress, including the Democrats, made “the terrible mistake” of giving the president everything he asked for, over and above the bounds of reason and constitutionality. Everything. Through the first half of this decade, they allowed him to get away with the no-bid contracts, the Patriot Act, the illegal preemptive invasion of Iraq, the outsourcing of the military, the wiretapping and all of the flagrantly unconstitutional shit which has defined his presidency.

And he still failed to get the bad guy.

With a record of acquiescence as precedent, the Democrats appear to be turning a corner and are attempting to ignore his pedomorphic attempts at intimidation. Slowly but surely. So how does the president react? He spazzes out and blames the Democrats for the on-going bin Laden threat.

Additionally, in finally resisting the president, the Democrats are also accused of being appeasers — similar to men who conducted business with Nazi Germany. Men including, say, I don’t know, Prescott Bush for example.

This isn’t a new tactic for this regime. I think Rumsfeld was the first to offer up this Nazi appeaser argument. Crazy ass Rumsfeld! The president should know better than to go around repeating all the backwards shit he overhears Rumsfeld saying.

Because now our Chief Executive has shrunken so small and beneath contempt as to blame the Democratic Party for potentially allowing an all new Holocaust — in the same way the appeasers allowed Hitler to run amok and murder 6 million Jews. Now the (straw man Democratic) appeasers want to let the evildoers run free, and… what then, hmm?

Hitler is to Holocaust, as bin Laden is to… what? Hint: another Holocaust-like genocide and the Democrats will surely be to blame.

In the president’s withered, oxygen-deprived skull, anyone who disagrees with this analogy is, as he said today, “being disingenuous or naive.” Not the neocons who repeat such nonsense. The Democrats.

That’s right. The Democrats.

By not giving the president everything he wants, these unhinged so-accused appeasers, in addition to allowing bin Laden to remain a threat, could now be shoving the world down a familiar slippery slope toward horrors not unlike “gas chambers” and racial “eradication,” and only George W. Bush’s illegal wiretaps and torturing and failed wars can stop this from happening. You know, because his ideas have always been so awesome. Naturally, then, the Democrats had better let him have Mukasey and waterboarding. They’d better let him bomb Iran. They’d better let him continue to fund mercenary shadow armies. Because if they don’t… Boom! New Holocaust!

This could very well be the most outrageous thing the president has ever said, and that includes “major combat operations have ended” and his recent World War III remark. Bloggers and talk radio hosts can get away with uttering such categorically demented horseshit, but this is the President of the United States for God’s sake. This speech was miles below the high ground dignity we expect from the holder of our most cherished public office.

As such, and in this order, there ought to be a motion to censure the president brought to the floor of both chambers, and, following the censure vote, the president should publicly apologize to Congress and the American people for these statements. Seriously. He should then apologize to the survivors of the Holocaust for reducing their horrifying struggle to the level of a hackish political stunt.

Contact your senators and congressman right now and get this thing moving. Congress seems to be demanding apologies from everyone who says something offensive these days, so, by God, the president should, too.

Meanwhile, per the 25th Amendment, the president needs to resign from office due to being mentally incapacitated. I know that won’t happen, but it’s worth suggesting anyway.

The Flaw in the New GOP Mukasey Talking Points
Indigentahole
Thursday, November 1, 2007

I wanted to post a little rant about this new GOP talking point regarding the confirmation of Michael Mukasey to Attorney General, because as usual, the logic behind the Republican arguments is asinine.

I know this is a true market tested, focus group-style talking point, because so far this week I have heard the same concepts from several GOP Senators, including our favorite turncoat, supposedly Independent Joe Lieberman (whose emotive pleas to confirm reminded me of the last time his deranged judgment came to bear on the position), Counselor to the President Ed Gillespie (who actually used the phrase “enhanced interrogation program” instead of the much more concise “torture”), and of course White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.

Here’s the argument; Mukasey is a very serious legal professional who would never make a judgment about whether or not waterboarding is torture before thoroughly being “read into the program.”

Here’s the faulty logic though- the question is whether the technique whereby a person is deceived into thinking his captors intend to drown him to death is torture. Their answer, that it cannot be answered because Mukasey does not have the security clearance to view the associated legal briefs- that’s where the reasoning is twisted into that famous logically fallacious argument the neocons are so good at.

There was no question on the legality of the procedure, or whether it was used by the U.S. or not.

The question was is the technique a form of torture.

By sidestepping the real question and substituting their own question, namely is the U.S. illegally torturing detainees using waterboarding, they can then move to the next illogical step of saying Mukasey cannot decide these things until he is confirmed and allowed to see what’s what.

Then, the GOP says, the Congress can demand Mukasey come back and report his answer, now armed with facts. Except, as Think Progress noted today, the executive branch’s policy is not to discuss interrogation techniques. And by then Attorney General Mukasey will be free to repeatedly stonewall Congress behind the friendly, but oh-so fascist curtain of Executive privilege.

I sincerely hope the Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee notice this flawed argument, and have the guts to stand against yet another Bush attempt to install cronies in key positions.

UPDATE: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse summed it up nicely on the Senate floor;
One might argue that this makes Mr. Mukasey an innocent victim in a clash between Congress and the President – that no nominee for Attorney General will be able to satisfy Congress or the American people on the question of torture, because the President, or perhaps the Vice President, will not allow any nominee to draw that bright line at what we all know in our hearts and minds to be abhorrent to our Constitution and our values.

Well, Mr. President, that is exactly the point. If we allow the President of the United States to prevent, to forbid, a would-be Attorney General of the United States – the most highly-visible representative of our rule of law – from recognizing that bright line, we will have turned down that dark stairway. I cannot stand for that. I will oppose this nomination.

UPDATED AGAIN: The President finds a way to state the talking point that reveals its bad logic quite clearly;

In the Oval Office, Bush complained about the delay and said it was unfair to ask Mukasey about interrogation techniques about which he has not been briefed. “He doesn’t know whether we use that technique or not,” the president said during the session.

Bush said, “It doesn’t make any sense to tell an enemy what we’re doing.”

Vice President Dick Cheney, speaking to veterans and National Guardsmen in Indianapolis, said classified CIA interrogation methods are not the same as those of the military, where waterboarding is not a permitted in the Army Field Manual.

“This CIA program is different. It involves tougher customers — men like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, and it involves tougher interrogation,” Cheney said.

Bush urged swift approval of Mukasey, saying the U.S. needs an attorney general on the job to help with the fight against terrorism.

That’s not the question, Mr C Student. The question is whether or not waterboarding is torture. The Bushittes are afraid if it is clearly stated that the practice is torture, as every rational person with any kind of humanity would agree with, then the use of said technique, encouraged by the Vice President and cheered on by the right wing blogosphere, would be a blatant violation of law.

We all know it is. It’s only a matter of time before justice is served.

Bonus read:

Political Processes Matter
John W. Dean, FindLaw via Smirking Chimp
Nov 2 2007

Although They Are Often Ignored By American News Media, A New British Import Has Addressed The Issue Directly

To understand the way our country operates, one must understand the functioning of its government. To understand the functioning of government, in turn, one truly must understand its processes. I am talking about something far beyond Civics 101, for reality has little relationship to the way our government, in theory, is supposed to function.

In almost seven years of writing this column, I have largely focused on one facet or another of process at the national level. Most all my books, including the autobiographical and biographical works, similarly have addressed such matters. There is a good reason for this, since I believe process is the essence of the government, directly affecting the way we live and work in our modern civilization.

Regardless of which political party controls our national government, it is the processes that produce the policy outcomes. Good policies come from good processes; bad policies inevitably flow from dysfunctional processes.

The Bush/Cheney Administration has burdened the nation with policy decisions that range from a disastrous war in the Iraq to the failure to address domestic and international issues greatly in need of serious attention. Much of what has gone wrong has happened because Republicans are manipulating, misusing, and abusing the processes of our national government. (This is something of a surprise to me, since I thought my former tribe had learned something from the public’s rejection of this activity when it was done by the Nixon Administration.)

Startlingly, the Democrats – so far – are ignoring the way the GOP has been gaming the system to its advantage, and to the detriment of the broader public interest, and it has been going on for too many years. This is a troubling situation.

How Democrats Ignored Process In 2004 and 2006

Nothing was more surprising about the presidential campaign of John Kerry than its decision to ignore process questions. For example, shortly before the 2004 election, the New York Times editorially asked why the Democrat’s standard bearer was not raising the excessive secrecy of the Bush/Cheney White House with voters.

Following Kerry’s defeat, I contacted his campaign and asked this question myself. The response, right from the top of the campaign, surprised me. Secrecy was a process matter, I was told, and the campaign did not believe most Americans cared about process.

Also, I made inquiry in both 2004 and 2006 of Democratic congressional candidates about why they had not addressed the way the Republican control of the Congress had literally removed them from the deliberative process, not to mention the way in which Republicans had abused those the process. Particularly in the U.S. House of Representatives, such abuses had become the norm under GOP control . We saw two-day work weeks, no committee hearings, legislation written by K Street lobbyists that was slipped into bills during late night sessions, cutting Democrats out of conference committees to resolve House and Senate differences — to name a merely few abusive techniques.

Democratic congressional candidates, not unlike the Kerry campaign, said that they had been advised by consultants that voters did not want to hear about such “process matters,” and to talk about them made them appear to be wimpy and complaining. So they too avoided process issues.

Republicans, in turn, have merely increased their abusive behavior, since it has no political cost whatsoever. And they are now making Democrats look like fools, rather than an opposition party.

Conventional Beltway Wisdom on Voters’ Views on Process Is Wrong

There is a belief within the mainstream media in Washington that process is unimportant to voters. While they enjoy covering the “horse race” aspects of political campaigns – which is pure process – they only occasionally talk about why Congress is not working (when Republicans refuse to conduct oversight of a Republican president or are obstructing everything the Democrats are doing), the way Republican presidents (as opposed to Democratic presidents) have worked to politicize the non-political federal judiciary, or how the judiciary only rarely provides a check on the other branches.

Many Washington pundits – Joe Klein of Time magazine, and Fred Barnes of the Weekly Standard, to name only two prominent and vocal deniers of the importance of process- happen to be wrong. The source of the Beltway wisdom about voters’ disinterest in process is never documented nor is it explained.

Pollsters do ask voters process questions regularly, like whether they approve or disapprove of the conduct of Congress or the President; whether the country is headed in the right direction; or which political party is better at managing matters such as war or the economy. No polls, however, tend to be performed on questions such as whether voters would like more or less information about who is doing what, and how, to the processes.

This is not to say that such information has never been flushed out, for it was, by a team of political scientists at the University of Nebraska (Lincoln): John Hibbing and Elizabeth Theiss-Morse. Their groundbreaking studies, highlighted in Congress as Public Enemy: Public Attitudes Toward American Political Institutions (1995) and Stealth Democracy: Americans’ Beliefs About How Government Should Work (2002), establish beyond question the importance of process.

In short, conventional wisdom within the Beltway is not supported by independent studies of actual voters. (Indeed, even non-voters are interested in process.) When one sifts through this material, it is evident that Democrats and Independents, particularly, are predominantly interested in these matters.

The Guardian America Is Interested In Process

The UK’s Guardian has recently started an online edition of its publication specifically directed at American readers. Michael Tomasky, the editor, acknowledged that he is interested in promoting the liberal and progressive agenda. More importantly, and as he explained when introducing this new publication, he plans to start “looking at the events of the day from a slightly different angle than US papers, and focusing in on some matters that they might ignore.”

Tomasky did just that, for example, with his recent interview of Hillary Clinton. He asked her process questions that, inexplicably, no American newsperson has raised: “If you become president you’ll enter the White House with far more power than, say, your husband had. What is your view of this?”

Senator Clinton responded, without script or hesitation, “I think it is clear that the power grab undertaken by the Bush-Cheney Administration has gone much further than any other president and has been sustained for longer. … I think that I’m gonna have to review everything they’ve done because I’ve been on the receiving end of that. There were a lot of actions which they took that were clearly beyond any power the Congress would have granted or that in my view that was inherent in the constitution. There were other actions they’ve taken which could have obtained congressional authorization but they deliberately chose not to pursue it as a matter of principle.”

Surprised, Tomasky pressed, “I’m asking, can a president, once in the White House, actually give up some of this power in the name of constitutional principle?”

“Oh, absolutely, Michael,” the Senator responded without a pause.

Process Must Be An Issue In 2008

To someone who follows process matters, this was an extraordinary exchange. As will be noted, the Guardian America has been addressing many process issues. But let us all hope that this is not the end of the discussion, but rather the beginning.

If Democrats do not focus on process in 2008, then not only will they be giving up a winning issue, but should the Republicans get a pass on such subjects without being held accountable, they will so change our government that it will no longer be recognizable.

Note: Mr. Dean discusses process issues at great length in his new book Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive and Judicial Branches. – Ed.

“So keep fightin’ for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t you forget to have fun doin’ it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce. And when you get through kickin’ ass and celebratin’ the sheer joy of a good fight, be sure to tell those who come after how much fun it was.”
~ Molly Ivins, 1944 – 2007

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.


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