Monday, September 18, 2006

"Restoring Honor and Dignity" and "Putting the 'Grown-Ups' in Charge"

Iraq, Katrina, Torture, Domestic Spying, and an Endless War on Terror.

Is this what we want a government to do?

From the same people who brought the Coalition Provisional Authority's spendiforous incompetence and cronyism to Iraq
(seriously, read that article, or the one the Washington Monthly reported three years ago), from the people who introduced laissez-faire crisis management to the people of the Gulf Coast, we now have the outrage of a "torture debate" in Congress and across the country to add to the ever-growing list of outrages.

Digby calls this "debate" kabuki theater: "Aside from the obvious electoral benefits of this kabuki dance, I also suspect the administration's substantive goal all along was to stage a public fight on torture in order to get the congress to compromise on all the military tribunal issues." That may be. In any event, I agree with Josh Marshall:
The torture debate in Congress--I never expected to write such words--is as surreal to me as watching the collapse of the Twin Towers.

. . .

I am beyond being able to assess the political implications, one way or the other, of this spectacle. Regardless of which version of the bill finally passes, this debate is a black mark on the soul of the nation.

. . .

Only the weak, scared, and evil torture. Those who order and sanction torture, but leave the dirty work to others, are an order of magnitude more culpable morally. (A special place is reserved for the lawyers who give legal cover for such orders.) In their fear and their weakness and their smallness, the President and those around him stepped over the line. To do so in the heated days after 9/11 is understandable to a point, though not justifiable. Yet they persisted, first in saying that they did not step over the line and now in seeking to redraw the line. So which is it?

They are descending from the morally reprehensible to the morally cowardly.
Glenn Greenwald takes torture-apologist John Yoo to task for his editorial this weekend in the New York Times in which he shamelessly (and hypocritically with a touch of "truthiness") argues in favor of the President's assertion of his power to break the law.

Most people would need evidence to make such an extreme claim as a constitutional power to break the law. Not Yoo.

By contrast, to support his modest claim that the President does not have the power to break laws he disagrees with rather than, you know, VETO-ING them, Greenwald enlists the aid of that shrill and unhinged crackpot, Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 73, 78 and 84:
It is indeed true that the President has the power to "check" legislation that he considers "wrongheaded or obsolete" -- by vetoing bills before they're enacted into law, not by violating them after they're enacted into law. The whole point of Hamilton's Federalist No. 73 is to explain the purpose of the veto power, and specifically that "the case for which it is chiefly designed" is "that of an immediate attack upon the constitutional rights of the executive." That is how the President in our system of government defends against Congressional encroachments on his power and imposes "checks" on "wrongheaded or obsolete legislation" -- by vetoing such bills (an action which is then subject to being overridden), not by secretly violating laws at will.

. . .

Just look at the things we're debating -- whether the U.S. Government can abduct and indefinitely imprison U.S. citizens without charges; whether we can use torture to interrogate people; whether our Government can eavesdrop on our private conversations without warrants; whether we can create secret prisons and keep people there out of sight and beyond the reach of any law or oversight; and whether the President can simply disregard long-standing constitutional limitations and duly enacted Congressional laws because he has deemed that doing so is necessary to "protect" us.

These haven't been open questions for decades if not centuries. They've been settled as intrinsic values that define our country. Yet nothing is settled or resolved any longer. Everything -- even the most extremist and authoritarian policies and things which were long considered taboo -- are now openly entertained, justifiable and routinely justified.
I guess it depends on what the meaning of is, is, huh?

As bad as the torture debate is (I can't believe I even wrote that phrase), the Administration's approach to governing Iraq under the CPA (aka The RNC Branch Office on the Tigris) could not have been any more "unserious."

After reviewing the Washington Post's story on the CPA, Digby says it:
The Republicans are telling us that they should be re-elected because the Democrats aren't serious about national security and only they can be trusted to keep the terrorists from killing us in our beds.

But the way the administration went about creating the CPA illustrates everything you need to know about the childlike sciolism of these so-called grown-ups. They insisted on invading a well contained country of 25 million people, ripped its society to shreds, and then put a bunch of low level cronies and inexperienced schoolkids in charge of creating a Club for Growth wet dream in the desert. And they spent billions and billions of dollars failing to do anything but lay the groundwork for civil war. I don't know if it's possible to screw up on a grander scale than that.

Here's the question for the American people. Let's, for the sake of argument, say that you don't like Democrats. You have the vague feeling in the pit of your stomach that they just don't have the cojones to do "what needs to be done." You can't get over the feeling that they aren't serious enough.

But if you are a thoughtful person of any political persuasion who is concerned about national security or the economy, you simply cannot read that story above and have even the slightest faith that such people can be trusted to continue to run the government with no oversight.

The question is not whether the Democrats have a better plan to correct these grievous errors or whether they are hard enough to deal with hard issues. The question is how anyone could think Democrats could possibly be worse than an administration that ordered the US government to eschew all expertise and give billions of taxpayer dollars to inexperienced Republican functionaries to rebuild a foreign country from the ground up? Considering the stakes in all this, I don't see how anyone can think it's a good idea to let these people continue unchecked. They screw up everything they touch and they never, ever, learn from their mistakes.
Well? Can anyone name one thing that the current Administration has done RIGHT? (no points for Afghanistan; they lost Bin Laden, the Taliban is resurging, and even an idiot would have gone after the Taliban and Al Qaeda after 9/11)


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