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Does Jack Goldsmith Prefer Barack Obama to Dick Cheney?

Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith, who briefly headed the Office of Legal Counsel in the Bush Administration, has an interesting essay in The New Republic, "The Cheney Fallacy," suggesting that the Obama Administration's approach to counterterrorism is better than that adopted under President Bush. The article begins:

Former Vice President Cheney says that President Obama's reversal of Bush-era terrorism policies endangers American security. The Obama administration, he charges, has "moved to take down a lot of those policies we put in place that kept the nation safe for nearly eight years from a follow-on terrorist attack like 9/11." Many people think Cheney is scare-mongering and owes President Obama his support or at least his silence. But there is a different problem with Cheney's criticisms: his premise that the Obama administration has reversed Bush-era policies is largely wrong. The truth is closer to the opposite: The new administration has copied most of the Bush program, has expanded some of it, and has narrowed only a bit. Almost all of the Obama changes have been at the level of packaging, argumentation, symbol, and rhetoric. This does not mean that the Obama changes are unimportant. Packaging, argumentation, symbol, and rhetoric, it turns out, are vitally important to the legitimacy of terrorism policies.

After reviewing the key policy areas, and the Obama Administration's revisions (many of which are marginal or largely cosmetic), Goldsmith concludes:

One can view these and many similar Obama administration efforts as attempts to save face while departing from campaign promises and supporter expectations. And no doubt there is an element of this in the Obama strategy. But the Obama strategy can also be seen, more charitably, as a prudent attempt to legitimate and thus strengthen the extraordinary powers that the president must exercise in the long war against Islamist terrorists. The president simply cannot exercise these powers over an indefinite period unless Congress and the courts support him. And they will not support him unless they think he is exercising his powers responsibly, under law, with real constraints, to address a real threat. The Obama strategy can thus be seen as an attempt to make the core Bush approach to terrorism politically and legally more palatable, and thus sustainable.

If this analysis is right, then the former vice president is wrong to say that the new president is dismantling the Bush approach to terrorism. President Obama has not changed much of substance from the late Bush practices, and the changes he has made, including changes in presentation, are designed to fortify the bulk of the Bush program for the long-run. Viewed this way, President Obama is in the process of strengthening the presidency to fight terrorism.

This analysis seems right to me. If the Obama campaign could be criticized for its blindness to the difficult trade-offs the Bush Administration sought to balance, the Bush Administration was too hard-line and unilateral for its own good. The Bush team often took good or necessary ideas too far and was unnecessarily dismissive of other branches and other opinions. Insofar as the Obama Administration is trimming the excesses of the Bush Administration's policies, and paying more attention to how our policies are perceived by friends and foes overseas, it seems to me they are setting the right course. There will be further bumps and misteps along the way, but at least we are heading in the right direction.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. More Rights at Gitmo, Fewer Elsewhere?
  2. Does Jack Goldsmith Prefer Barack Obama to Dick Cheney?
CJColucci:
Does Jack Goldsmith Prefer Barack Obama to Dick Cheney?

Why should he be different from millions of other Americans, and millions more around the world?
5.19.2009 12:35pm
The Unbeliever:
Almost all of the Obama changes have been at the level of packaging, argumentation, symbol, and rhetoric. This does not mean that the Obama changes are unimportant. Packaging, argumentation, symbol, and rhetoric, it turns out, are vitally important to the legitimacy of terrorism policies.
Very true. One of my biggest complaints with Bush was that, when embarking on a new style of warfare where everyone agreed that perception and media finesse was the key, we had a President and an Administration (post-Ari Fleischer) who was incapabl of selling bottled water to desert nomads.

The question to ask now is: assuming Obama's trying for long term legitimization of the same policies, is he using rhetoric that will help in the long run, or is he still stuck in campaign mode?
The Bush team often took good or necessary ideas too far and was unnecessarily dismissive of other branches and other opinions.
To borrow a riff from Mark Twain... I don't think it is actually possible to ever be too dismissive of Congress. Especially the Congress he had at the time, after Jeffords' defection and his own party's intellectual vacuum. You don't go to war with the politicians you want, you go to war with the politicians you have.
5.19.2009 12:35pm
Soronel Haetir (mail):
I'd prefer war with all the politicians. That way they might finally be defeated.
5.19.2009 12:40pm
wm13:
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, no one was quite sure of AQ's capacity, and the nation was in no mood to skimp on security. The succeeding eight years have demonstrated that AQ's capacity is a lot greater than we thought on 9/10/01, but not so great as we thought on 9/12/01. For this reason, the Bush administration throttled on a number of controversial measures (for instance, it is credibly reported that there has been no waterboarding since 2002 or therebouts). The Obama administration is continuing this process.

Of course, if the Obama administration throttles back too far, as Democratic administrations (Truman, Carter) have been wont to do, we may become vulnerable to another major attack. So the cycle will continue. Since I work in midtown Manhattan, I probably won't be here for that cycle, however.
5.19.2009 12:43pm
rick.felt:
I think Obama is very liberal, but he knows that any president, no matter how popular and skilled, can only accomplish so much. So Krauthammer has it right, I believe, when he says that Obama has a few issues/objectives that he thinks are worth fighting over (universal health insurance, for example), and everything else is more or less, as Obama would say, a "distraction."

You can tell the distractions from the real issues by Obama's use of what I call "PORF," or "Professor Obama's Rhetorical Fog." It's simple, really: just look at the Notre Dame address, or his much ballyhooed race speech from last spring. They start with a professorial-in-style but glib-in-substance summary of the competing positions, move on to an assertion that there are no easy answers, and conclude with a Jerry Springer's Final Thought about getting along with each other. Most importantly, of course, what the PORF never does is challenge the substantive status quo. Obama isn't going to sign the FoCA; he'll just appoint pro-abortion judges. Obama isn't going to tackle racial issues through legislation; he'll just let the country bask in his biracial awesomeness.

Anyway, Obama doesn't really care about foreign policy or the war on terror, except to the extent that they get in the way of the stuff he wants to do. He'll make some cosmetic changes to Bush policies, but he's not going to pick a fight over them - not when it's going to cost him political capital.
5.19.2009 12:45pm
rosetta's stones:

Soronel Haetir (mail):
"I'd prefer war with all the politicians. That way they might finally be defeated."




"We shall not flag nor fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France and on the seas and oceans; we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on beaches, landing grounds, in fields, in streets and on the hills. We shall never surrender..." .....W. Churchill

5.19.2009 12:56pm
Houston Lawyer:
It looks like all the critics of Bush's anti-terrorism policies, including Obama, owe him an apology. Must have all been political posturing all along, because now that The One is doing it everything is fine. I won't hold my breath waiting for our adversaries or our allies to respond to something as underwhelming as a change in tone.
5.19.2009 1:03pm
erp:
Lefties are masters of semantics.

Torture is fine as long it's called a tea party ... blah blah blah. Since my grandchildren live on this earth, I hope Obama comes and goes without blowing it up or as the NYT would put it, downsizing it and moving it into an alternate orbit.
5.19.2009 1:12pm
geokstr (mail):

"Packaging, argumentation, symbol, and rhetoric, it turns out, are vitally important to the legitimacy of terrorism policies."

This is insanity, even if, and especially if, it's true.

The terrorists, their handlers, trainers, recruiters and enablers/imams are going to somehow be convinced to stop by prettier rhetoric and PR? If those in charge of protecting us believe that, I'm going to start growing my beard and learning Farsi right now.

These devices may be absolutely necessary because the left will twist and spin any policy that calls for having a pair against the owner of said pair, and they have a vast propaganda machine for doing so. I suppose if you define "the legitimacy of terrorism policies" as something that encourages the left to sprout cojones of their own, then I'll agree. Instead we strip-search Catholic nuns, 3 year olds, and grannies in wheelchairs at airports to keep ourselves from violating one of the left's commandments "Though shalt believe in diversity - or else".

I have no doubt whatsoever that if 9/11 had happened under the Algore regime, right now the same leftists and the entire MSM calling for Bush/Cheney's heads would be defending their waterboarding because they were trying to save the nation. But their actual reason for committing "torture" would have been the results of a focus group that indicated they could get votes that way.
5.19.2009 1:13pm
Just an Observer:
Goldsmith's analysis is largely in keeping with his established thesis that presidents act more strongly in wartime when they act in concert with Congress and respect the courts. That is a lesson Cheney never learned.

One serious factual point Goldsmith makes is that Cheney deceives when he claims we are "less afe" because Obama has dismantled two programs Bush and Cheney put in place on interrogation and surveillance. In fact, as far as we know no actual applied program of "enhanced interrogation" (torture and other cruel and coercive treatment) was being conducted for roughly the second Bush term. Similarly, Bush actually abandoned the "terrorist surveillance program" (warrantless wiretapping in violation of FISA) in 2007, eventually adopting a different program expressly authorized by Congress in 2007 and 2008.

The legal landscape is different, however, and Goldsmith is a bit too facile in describing the similarities while glossing over the differences. Especially on interrogation, all the Cheney-era OLC memos have been swept aside. And it is no insignificant event that the full standards of Geneva Common Article 3 are now recognized again, along with the sanctions of the War Crimes Act -- just not for the time Bush officials violated it.

In the matter of detaining "enemy combatants" called something else, I agree that Obama's position is close to Bush's, although on a subtly sounder footing. The proposed adoption of a revised form of congressionally authorized military commissions is also not that surprising. Neither of those general policies offend many moderates like me who opposed many of Bush's other war-on-terror excesses.

Closing Gitmo is largely symbolic after Bouemediene -- intended primarily for foreign policy reasons -- the more radical Bush positions having been defeated in court. Of course, the courts still have to work out what substantive rights, if any, the detainees have to go along with habeas. It appears increasingly like Congress will succumb to demagoguery and force Gitmo to remain open longer, which says more about weak-willed congressional politics than it says about Obama.

On the state-secrets doctrine and related matters, Obama's position in court is still quite wrongheaded in my view, and it remains to be seen if he will accept real reforms as he indicated in his last press conference.

The most controversial thing about Obama's record so far is his obvious stonewalling against any serious efforts to expose prior lawbreaking, or bring to pass any accountability.
5.19.2009 1:20pm
John Moore (www):
erp:

Lefties are masters of semantics.

Torture is fine as long it's called a tea party

Do the Bybee memos allow teabagging as torture? Curious mminds want to know.
5.19.2009 1:22pm
Oren:
Rick, I agree, with the caveat that there is only so much the President can do in the first place even if motivated. He can push FOCA or not, but he's not going to solve the abortion debate. He can't make racial issues disappear, he can't decisively defeat militant Wahabis, he can't turn the economy around just by jumping up and down like a cheerleader.

The title of POTUS as the "most powerful man in the world" fails to mention the fact that the most powerful man in the world isn't even all that powerful.
5.19.2009 1:32pm
David Walser:
Almost all of the Obama changes have been at the level of packaging, argumentation, symbol, and rhetoric. This does not mean that the Obama changes are unimportant. Packaging, argumentation, symbol, and rhetoric, it turns out, are vitally important to the legitimacy of terrorism policies.

Very true. One of my biggest complaints with Bush was that, when embarking on a new style of warfare where everyone agreed that perception and media finesse was the key, we had a President and an Administration (post-Ari Fleischer) who was incapabl of selling bottled water to desert nomads.


The Bush administration's inability to explain its own policies was one of it greatest failures. In fairness, we should remember that whenever the Bush administration did try to explain the need for X policy, the Democrats would complain loudly that Bush was trying to politicize the war or that he was exaggerating the threat for political purposes. Too often, the Democrat's charge of using the war for political gain became the media story. That doesn't excuse Bush's failure to do a better job of communicating what he was doing and why, but the context helps us better understand the failure. Bush did not have the same cheer leading press that Obama enjoys.

At times, the administration seemed to believe that, eventually, the truth would become self-evident and that the country would come to realize they were doing the best they could under difficult circumstances. That may still be the case. In the meantime, the Democrats got away with writing the narrative over the last 4 - 6 years. That narrative included the Bush administration engaging in war for venal ends and as evil destroyers of civil liberties. The story prominently features the Democrats bravely standing up for truth, justice, and the American way. As it becomes clear the Democrats were informed of what Bush was doing and, for the most part, supported his efforts in private while decrying him in public, the public's understanding of the narrative may change and Bush may be viewed in a better light. In the end, the Democrats will still control the government.
5.19.2009 1:37pm
luci:
I suspect that if a democrat had been president during the past 8 years, and had adopted the exact same policies as Bush, the same policies would have been "politically and legally patable." Simply because the opinion elites would not have been trying to undermine the President so that a different, preferred party would win the next election.
5.19.2009 1:37pm
War on science:
Walsh, James I., and Piazza, James A., “Why Respecting Physical Integrity Rights Reduces Terrorism”, Comparative Political Studies, forthcoming:

Abstract

Does respect for human rights check or promote terrorism? This question is hotly debated within policy circles. Some hold that restricting human rights is a necessary if unfortunate cost of preventing terrorism. Others conclude that such abuses aggravate political grievances that contribute to terror. We demonstrate that theory and data support the latter position. We hypothesize that abuse of the subset of rights known as physical integrity rights fuels terrorism by making it more difficult for government authorities to collect intelligence on terrorists and by undermining domestic and international support for their counterterrorism efforts. We test this hypothesis using a dataset that includes measures of both domestic and transnational terrorist attacks, and find that respect for physical integrity rights is consistently associated with fewer terrorist attacks. This suggests that those interested in curtailing terrorism should press governments to more carefully respect physical integrity rights.
5.19.2009 1:47pm
Sunshine is good:
luci, I disagree. Jack's point is very important. The marketing is just as important as the policy itself. Bush went out of his way to hide, obfuscate, call you a supporter of terror if you disagreed, argued with your sense of patriotism, over-classify any available information - and then wonders why people get upset whenever he opened his mouth.

His paternalistic attitude was what drove people deranged, even if he had a useful or progressive-minded policy. His marketing team brought it down on him, after the uphill climb back from accusations of stealing the 2000 election...

Obama understands this. He is acting like a politician should act when a divisive policy presents itself - he sells his point of view. People should be able to argue one direction or the other without being branded as fools or traitors, and when Obama takes an approach to call the other side as less-patriotic, gun-crazy, faith-addled, etc, it backfires on him (as it should) just as it did with Bush.
5.19.2009 1:52pm
martinned (mail) (www):
@War on Science: That's an ambitious study. They seem to have controlled for most of the obvious variables, but I'll still have to ponder whether they didn't establish the reverse pattern instead. (= Countries with lower terrorism respect physical integrity rights more.)
5.19.2009 1:55pm
erp:
John Moore:

You tell me. Semantics is the tea bag of the left, not the right.
5.19.2009 1:55pm
Constantin:
Like David Walser implies, I don't think Bush suffered from an inability to defend himself. He suffered from an unwillingness to even try. I'm not sure if it was arrogance or if he thought the ad Hitlerum charges were too absurd to be taken seriously--clearly, they weren't--but he didn't make an effort to stand up for himself after the '04 election. It was a pathetic showing.

I also don't believe any part of Prof. Adler's concluding paragraph. As David Walser again notes, the only real difference, other than the presence of a self-preservation instinct, is that Obama has the press cheerleading for him while they demonized the listless Bush. Show me where Obama has been honestly solicitous of contrasting opinions. He spends most of his time, with reference to those who are opposed to him, divided between overt ridicule and visible shock that anyone would dare question his wisdom. For all the talk about his cool, I've never witnessed a public figure with thinner skin.
5.19.2009 1:59pm
War on science:
I'll still have to ponder whether they didn't establish the reverse pattern instead.


See discussion.
5.19.2009 2:01pm
martinned (mail) (www):

For all the talk about his cool, I've never witnessed a public figure with thinner skin.

This reminds me of what FT columnist Gideon Rachman wrote about the Netanyahu visit yesterday. (It's a bit off topic, but short and fun enough to be excused, I think.)


With the Israeli prime minister on his best behaviour, it was left to Israeli journalists to express some of the widespread distrust of Obama that undoubtedly exists in the Jewish state. One asked the US president if his policy to Iran didn’t risk looking weak. I thought Obama bridled slightly at this. He’s not used to journalists using words like that to him. His first response - “I’m not sure why my out-stretched hand would be interpreted as weakness” was a bit stiff. But he then gave a fairly eloquent defence of diplomacy, while Netanyahu looked grave and nodded in apparent agreement. What Netanyahu really thinks, is another matter.
5.19.2009 2:03pm
MJH21 (mail):
I think it is a galactically-obvious error to compare the Obama approach with the Bush approach. Such comparisons completely ignore the fact that the Bush Administration was faced with a scenario where they felt they needed to respond to an imminent second wave of terrorist attacks on civilian targets. They were writing on a blank slate about how to protect the country that day and each day thereafter against a different kind of enemy or at least an untraditional enemy of a different magnitude than we had ever faced. They didn't have the luxury of taking a long view of how to best reserve Congressional goodwill, international opinion, and policy popularity with the judiciary. They were worried about several thousand more dead Americans, tomorrow. Anyone who pretends that the threat today is perceived in the same way that it was in 2002-04 has either forgotten the impact of 9-11 or is wilfully blind that what we know in 2009 we did not know in the aftermath of 2001.

Ask Lincoln or FDR or Truman how a daily stream of American dead-bodies changed their views on civil liberties and the law of armed conflict. I’m not saying that no-holds are barred when we’re at war/are under attack – only that those facts change everything about how any president would make tough decisions. And I for one am damn glad that they do. I’m not saying the Bush Administration got all of the tough calls correct, I’m simply saying that the calls they made are understandable given the situation that they could reasonably have believed they were faced with.

I hope President Obama has the luxury of not having to make those kinds of calls under the same threats. I pray that he thinks of how to keep us safe as his first priority and everything else secondarily, if he ever does.
5.19.2009 2:06pm
martinned (mail) (www):
@War on science: Thanks, that helps. I'm still not convinced, though. Using lags in the manner described would help to establish the direction of causation, but only if time-series is in fact the appropriate way to look at this. And I'm not sure if that is true.

Both terrorism and torture seem to be phenomena that differ greatly between countries, but much less over time for the same country. So using the latter variation as a source of evidence for the direction of causation seems to me to be pretty dicey. That said, I should really go back to work, rather than trying to figure out how a 2SLS works again...
5.19.2009 2:14pm
http://volokh.com/?exclude=davidb :

for instance, it is credibly reported that there has been no waterboarding since 2002 or therebouts

That can't be true though, because waterboarding is necessary to preserve our national security, and Bush/Cheney wouldn't have left us defenseless like that.
5.19.2009 2:45pm
ruralcounsel (mail):
It looks to me like Goldsmith is trying to straddle the fence in the fine tradition of all mugwumps.

After the last 8 years of sedition and rosy-glasses ignorance from the Left, to try to turn it all into a dispute on marketing and salesmanship...who'd a thunk it?
5.19.2009 2:57pm
PaulTX (mail) (www):
J. Adler, supra:

There will be further bumps and misteps along the way, but at least we are heading in the right direction.


We are, even by Goldsmith's account, headed in the same direction. The only difference is that Obama has turned on the elevator music.
5.19.2009 3:05pm
Roy Black, Jr. (mail):
There will be further bumps and misteps along the way, but at least we are heading in the right direction.



Perhaps you understimate the power one "misstep" could bring. You could totally lose your footing and tumble with one minor... misstep.

Let's wait and see what happens by the end of the year with Iran. One blunder there, and an Israeli attack on Iran could make Bush's missteps in Iraq seem like a stubbed toe by comparison.

It's only 4 months in; let's not get too excitable about what excellent footing we are on, eh Professor A.?
5.19.2009 3:07pm
MarkField (mail):

Do the Bybee memos allow teabagging as torture?


Depends on whether it's giving or receiving.

Thank you, thank you. Try the veal.
5.19.2009 3:31pm
M N Ralph:

In fact, as far as we know no actual applied program of "enhanced interrogation" (torture and other cruel and coercive treatment) was being conducted for roughly the second Bush term.


That's not my understanding. I realize that waterboarding supposedly stopped a while back, but had not understood that other "enhanced interrogation" techniques were not used in 2005-2008. I had assumed that some (most? all besides waterboarding?) continued to be used, especially given the Bush administration's fight to keep the CIA legally exempted from the restrictions Congress imposed during the second Bush term and given Obama's exec order limiting the CIA to Armyu Field Manual interrogation techniques. Did I miss the news that the other coercive techniques were not used in the second Bush term?
5.19.2009 3:42pm
BGates:
call you a supporter of terror if you disagreed, argued with your sense of patriotism

Never happened. It's the Democrats that have relentlessly claimed Republicans were un-American for pursuing policies that initially had bipartisan support.
5.19.2009 3:42pm
Sunshine is good:
Thank you ruralcounsel for proving my exact point about sounding like a jackass when you accuse the other side of an opinion for being treasonous.
5.19.2009 3:44pm
trad and anon (mail):
I think Goldsmith makes an interesting point, but I would draw the reverse conclusion. To the extent that Obama's policy changes increase the perceived legitimacy of the government's authoritarian counterterrorism tactics while leaving their substance in place, Obama is even worse than Bush on this issue. It's definitely not change I can believe in.
5.19.2009 3:46pm
Sunshine is good:
BGates Won't someone please think of the childrentroops?!

And that's Bush speaking - not his press sec, not Karl Rove's advertisements, not the supportive media like Fox or allahpundit, and not Cheney. "Un-American"? Sounds much more like what I heard from the red side during the last 7-8 years... What was the name of Coulter's book again?
5.19.2009 4:03pm
rick.felt:
To the extent that Obama's policy changes increase the perceived legitimacy of the government's authoritarian counterterrorism tactics while leaving their substance in place, Obama is even worse than Bush on this issue.

One of the greatest falsehoods of the past four or six years has been that the left opposes torture, rendition, and the rest on principle. Surely some on the left do, but what many of the left actually oppose is torture that's not conducted by leftists.

Here's a cheat sheet:

Pinochet torture = war criminal.

Castro torture = did you know that Cuba has a 100% literacy rate?

Bush torture = Fascist Christianist torturer for Jesus

Saddam torture = Saddam Hussein's government was secular!

Now that a man of the left is running the show, the torture objections become... more muted.
5.19.2009 4:10pm
JB:
As others have said here, and as I have said repeatedly:

No amount of Presidential power is a threat to the United States, as long as its extent is (a) known and (b) limitable by Congress. No power Bush arrogated was anywhere near as dangerous to liberty as his unwillingness to define the extent of his arrogations, and admit to external constraints. It wasn't the "we will torture prisoners without legal review and spy on our citizens without warrants" that was the problem*, it was the "we will do whatever we want and not tell you what we're doing." Sunlight is the best disinfectant, and even if it doesn't disinfect it still shows you where to wash.


*I don't really like those either, but if they make us safer enough than so be it. The country will survive to see them repealed if need be.
5.19.2009 4:11pm
rosetta's stones:

"...Obama's exec order limiting the CIA to Armyu Field Manual interrogation techniques."


Which he can change the minute he decides to tailor his policy. Maybe you'll know, maybe you won't.

So far, directionally, Obama is proceeding in a Bushitlerian fashion, re the "war on terrorism". Guantanamo, tribunals, coercive interrogations, bombing villages, killing pirates... all seems to be steady as she goes.

Bush spent like a madman, particularly at the end, and Obama is following that same course.

A fawning media, seems to be the only change here. We'll see if that lasts.
5.19.2009 4:14pm
Benjamin Davis (mail):
I would be dubious about any statements on the war on terror of Jack Goldsmith based on his work when he was at OLC to dodge international obligations to get people to be extraordinarily rendered out of Iraq to torture. I have met him and said to him to his face from the floor of the American Society of International Law Annual Meeting in April 2005 that I thought he and the other lawyers should be criminally prosecuted for what they did.
Best,
Ben
5.19.2009 4:21pm
Assistant Village Idiot (mail) (www):
Excellent points in these comments. I would add to the criticism of Goldsmith's comments that they are somewhat circular and self-fulfilling. Any presidential administration marketing its ideas is trying to appeal to a variety of audiences, national and international, simultaneously. If his political opposition depth-charges that appeal, how should he respond to that? (Note: such a general case could apply to Obama as well. If conservatives calling him soft increase the likelihood of attacks, would that be Obama's fault, or theirs?)

Goldsmith, and others here, bemoan what a poor sales job Bush did. Perhaps so, but he was in a starkly different sales environment than obtains today, for reasons that Walser, Constantin, and MJH21 outline.

Humorously, other comments here provide great examples of his political opposition's position: If George didn't convince people, it must be his speaking and not their listening that's at fault. I repeat again my claim that simple self-reflection would, in and of itself, bring down half of progressivism.

Aint gonna happen, though.
5.19.2009 4:24pm
Constantin:
It wasn't the "we will torture prisoners without legal review and spy on our citizens without warrants" that was the problem*, it was the "we will do whatever we want and not tell you what we're doing."

Yeah, he kept it secret from everyone except the congressional leaders of the opposition political party.
5.19.2009 4:27pm
bloodstar (mail) (www):
There desperately needs to be a slashdot style of rating comments in here, The trolls have way too much power to hijack and throttle real discussions with their obfuscation and lies.

Only here could you have the following comments:


ruralcounsel (mail):
It looks to me like Goldsmith is trying to straddle the fence in the fine tradition of all mugwumps.

After the last 8 years of sedition and rosy-glasses ignorance from the Left, to try to turn it all into a dispute on marketing and salesmanship...who'd a thunk it?


followed rapidly by:


BGates:
call you a supporter of terror if you disagreed, argued with your sense of patriotism

Never happened. It's the Democrats that have relentlessly claimed Republicans were un-American for pursuing policies that initially had bipartisan support.


Your efforts to obfuscate and pass the buck Epic Fail when you post in the same comment section and contradict each other.
5.19.2009 4:39pm
geokstr (mail):

M N Ralph:
That's not my understanding. I realize that waterboarding supposedly stopped a while back, but had not understood that other "enhanced interrogation" techniques were not used in 2005-2008. I had assumed that some (most? all besides waterboarding?) continued to be used...

I totally agree.

In fact, that's when the truly evil and despicable methods were just getting started, like the "attention grasp". If that didn't work, they would actually push the poor vic into a faux cushioned wall. And finally, the unspeakable horror - the caterpillar.

No wonder many people say Bush = Hilter.
5.19.2009 4:53pm
Jagermeister:
Of all the self-serving, hypocritical, gobbledy-gook!

Goldsmith, Adler, et. al., are doing nothing more than dressing up their notion that things that are evil when done by Republicans, are now good if done by Democrats. It is even more hypocritical when the basis of dressing up the ideas is that Democrats are better because they are dissembling about what their actions and intentions. The primary reason that people thought that Bush wasn't "exercising his powers responsibly, under law, with real constraints, to address a real threat" is that Democrats, with emphasis on Obama, kept claiming that Bush was irresponsible, that the threats were lies, and that Bush had run amok.

This isn't the "right direction". This is "newspeak" from 1984.
5.19.2009 4:54pm
Anderson (mail):
Goldsmith, Adler, et. al., are doing nothing more than dressing up their notion that things that are evil when done by Republicans, are now good if done by Democrats.

Riiiiight. Because Goldsmith and Adler are such Democrats and Obama-lovers.

People: take your medication at least two hours before commenting. Thank you.
5.19.2009 5:05pm
geokstr (mail):

bloodstar:
There desperately needs to be a slashdot style of rating comments in here, The trolls have way too much power to hijack and throttle real discussions with their obfuscation and lies.

Given that this was supposedly a center-right libertarian site, you have a curious idea of who the "trolls" are. Any post with the possibility of being negative of Obama or positive of Bush is quickly taken over by the same leftists every time, but of course, they never "obfuscate or lie".

The same thing has happened to nearly every conservative and center-right blog. It's almost like there are "trolls" paid to infect them.

Yet have a difference of opinion on Kos, HuffPo, the DU and others and see how quickly you get banned. Just goes to show who is really where on this free speech thing.

It's about time the right starts fighting back.
5.19.2009 5:05pm
RPT (mail):
"Constantin:

Yeah, he kept it secret from everyone except the congressional leaders of the opposition political party."

That's certainly to be a winning argument, since those making it are now fully behind a public inquiry to determine who did what when and, who was told. Since when is disclosure of wrongdoing an excuse for the wrongdoer? The Pelosi meme has no utility if the underlying conduct is not illegal. This campaign will lead to more factual disclosure. It will also provide us with another time travel opportunity as we see the how the 2006-coined terms "EIT" was used in the "contemporaneous" records of 2002 briefings.
5.19.2009 5:07pm
anomdebus (mail):
bloodstar,
Considering the sentence BGates quoted started with "Bush went out of his way", then you comment is appropos only if ruralcounsel is Bush. (though I am confused a little by BGates' selective quoting...)

Of course the truth is that both sides are engaging in hyperbole.
5.19.2009 5:11pm
geokstr (mail):

RPT:
The Pelosi meme has no utility if the underlying conduct is not illegal.

And if it's not illegal, then the whole Pelosi/Democrat meme about torture has no utility for them either, now does it?

The "underlying conduct", if it was illegal, was bi-partisan for a long time after 9/11. I guess once they figured the media would reliably cover for them, the Dems thought they could revise the history of their own words.

"And I'd like to interject a note of balance here. There are times when we all get in high dudgeon. We ought to be reasonable about this. I think there are probably very few people in this room or in America who would say that torture should never, ever be used, particularly if thousands of lives are at stake.

Take the hypothetical: If we knew that there was a nuclear bomb hidden in an American city and we believed that some kind of torture, fairly severe maybe, would give us a chance of finding that bomb before it went off, my guess is most Americans and most senators, maybe all, would say, Do what you have to do.

So it's easy to sit back in the armchair and say that torture can never be used. But when you're in the foxhole, it's a very different deal."

Chuck Schumer 2004


"If there are egregious violations of law, they should be prosecuted….The most logical, best place to start is the Justice Department…If they won't do it, someone else is going to have to do it."

Chuck schumer 2009
5.19.2009 5:23pm
ruralcounsel (mail):
Sunshine is good:
"Thank you ruralcounsel for proving my exact point about sounding like a jackass when you accuse the other side of an opinion for being treasonous."

You need to quit reading your own words into what someone else writes. Sedition is not synonomous with treason. So what was your "exact" point?

sedition: an illegal action inciting resistance to lawful authority and tending to cause the disruption or overthrow of the government

treason: (the crime of) lack of loyalty to your country, especially by helping its enemies or attempting to defeat its government

Did I just hear you bray?
5.19.2009 5:33pm
guy in the veal calf office (mail) (www):
I wonder what Godlsmith thinks of Eric Holder's performance before the House Judiciary Committee hearings. Here's some quotes relayed by Connie Hair:

[Lundgren asked if it was the Justice Department’s position that Navy SEALS subjected to waterboarding as part of their training were being tortured].

Holder:  No, it’s not torture in the legal sense because you’re not doing it with the intention of harming these people physically or mentally, all we’re trying to do is train them --

Lungren:  So it’s the question of intent?

Holder:  Intent is a huge part.

Lungren:  So if the intent was to solicit information but not do permanent harm, how is that torture?

Holder:  Well, it… uh… it… one has to look at... ah… it comes out to question of fact as one is determining the intention of the person who is administering the waterboarding.  When the Communist Chinese did it, when the Japanese did it, when they did it in the Spanish Inquisition we knew then that was not a training exercise they were engaging in. They were doing it in a way that was violative of all of the statutes recognizing what torture is. What we are doing to our own troops to equip them to deal with any illegal act -- that is not torture.

[Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), a former judge, continued the “intent” line of questioning in an attempt to make some sense of the attorney general’s tortured logic.]

Rep. Louie Gohmert:  Whether waterboarding is torture you say is an issue of intent.  If our officers when waterboarding have no intent and in fact knew absolutely they would do no permanent harm to the person being waterboarded, and the only intent was to get information to save people in this country then they would not have tortured under your definition, isn’t that correct?

Attorney General Eric Holder:  No, not at all.  Intent is a fact question, it’s a fact specific question.

Gohmert:  So what kind of intent were you talking about?

Holder:  Well, what is the intention of the person doing the act?  Was it logical that the result of doing the act would have been to physically or mentally harm the person?

Gohmert:  I said that in my question.  The intent was not to physically harm them because they knew there would be no permanent harm -- there would be discomfort but there would be no permanent harm -- knew that for sure.  So, is the intent, are you saying it’s in the mind of the one being water-boarded, whether they felt they had been tortured.  Or is the intent in the mind of the actor who knows beyond any question that he is doing no permanent harm, that he is only making them think he’s doing harm.

Holder:  The intent is in the person who would be charged with the offense, the actor, as determined by a trier of fact looking at all of the circumstances.  That is ultimately how one decides whether or not that person has the requisite intent.  
5.19.2009 5:36pm
Bart (mail):

Almost all of the Obama changes have been at the level of packaging, argumentation, symbol, and rhetoric. This does not mean that the Obama changes are unimportant. Packaging, argumentation, symbol, and rhetoric, it turns out, are vitally important to the legitimacy of terrorism policies.

As Will Levi noted in his recent article reviewing the post WWII history of US interrogation practices, the US entered into the CAT and enacted the Torture Statute to maintain the illusion of probity, but in reality drafted those laws broadly enough to encompass a wide range of coercive interrogation techniques short of intentional infliction of severe pain - a range of techniques that CIA and the military have themselves employed or subcontracted out to foreign intelligence services for the entire post war period under administrations of both parties and ideologies. Indeed, JFK and LBJ, not Bush, first used the array of CIA coercive techniques under debate today.

Yoo upset this apple cart of plausible deniability by taking his job seriously and making clear the full range of permissible interrogation under the Torture Statute. In his book "Terror Presidency," Goldsmith did not take issue with Yoo's legal views so much as criticized his lack of "sobriety" for departing from the post war smoke and mirrors.

As the passage above reveals, Goldsmith is far more comfortable with Obama's return to the smoke and mirrors, even though it is fundamentally dishonest. However, if self deception is what it takes for some folks to get back to supporting CIA and the war effort, who am I to deny them their delusions.
5.19.2009 6:03pm
RPT (mail):
geokstr:

It appears we are in agreement. Investigate and disclose. Let's see the briefing records, including the meta-data to determine when the records were generated and by whom.
5.19.2009 6:22pm
Anderson (mail):
supposedly a center-right libertarian site

Will someone please direct me to the libertarian case for torture? I can't wait to read it.
5.19.2009 6:37pm
rosetta's stones:

Holder: Well, it… uh… it… one has to look at... ah… it comes out to question of fact as one is determining the intention of the person who is administering the waterboarding.

Holder: The intent is in the person who would be charged with the offense, the actor, as determined by a trier of fact looking at all of the circumstances. That is ultimately how one decides whether or not that person has the requisite intent.



This is pretty sad. Somebody above mentioned smoke and mirrors was our past policy, and we abandoned it. Now, poor Holder has to go up there, and be embarassed, to get that smoke machine cranked back up, and the mirrors re-mounted.

What poor Eric Holder is being forced to describe here is hate crimes. Too funny, but sad, too. "requisite intent"? Please. I fell bad for the guy, having to skuttle in for that performance. He's the AG for crisakes. Give him his dignity.
5.19.2009 6:49pm
kietharch (mail):
As often happens Houston Lawyer gets it right: an apology is due.

After hammering on Bush for the entire campaign, impugning honesty, integrity and the intelligence of the president and the GWOT now Obama decides the only thing he can responsibly change is the name. We don't have GWOT anymore!! hurray for us. Not a good political performance.
5.19.2009 6:57pm
MarkField (mail):

Will someone please direct me to the libertarian case for torture? I can't wait to read it.


Can you think of a better way to decide disputed property claims? Solomon was an early libertarian.
5.19.2009 7:02pm
rick.felt:
After hammering on Bush for the entire campaign, impugning honesty, integrity and the intelligence of the president and the GWOT now Obama decides the only thing he can responsibly change is the name.

Had Senator Obama promised early in the Democratic primaries to keep Bush's Secretary of Defense and continue Bush's military commission policies... he'd still be Senator Obama.

I'm enjoying the Change, and I Hope that it will continue.
5.19.2009 7:09pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
BGates:

call you a supporter of terror if you disagreed, argued with your sense of patriotism

Never happened.

Before re-writing history, you should probably get your friends on the same talking point.
5.19.2009 7:30pm
godelmetric (mail):
Holder's logic is better than his articulation of it. It's self-evident that the treatment of soldiers in training isn't equivalent to the treatment of prisoners of any sort. This really should be even more obvious to conservatives than to liberals.

If someone argues that a soldier shooting a civilian pursuant to legitimate RoE is murder, Holder's response -- that intent matters and that it's a fact-specific question -- would be precisely correct.

I don't imagine that people on the left would that conclusion any more palatable than the commenters upthread seem to view Holder's distinction. They would no doubt argue that the RoE are illegitimate, that "collateral damage" is a euphemism, that civilian deaths are always unacceptable.

Of course, all of those arguments are irrelevant. If the laws of war have any meaning at all, they dictate that the only relevant fact is what's in the mind of the soldier, which is a fact-specific question of intent. It doesn't matter if the person a soldier shoots is a civilian; all that matters is what the soldier reasonably believes when they pull the trigger.

Likewise, the arguments that waterboarding is not torture simply because it is also done to soldiers in SERE training or because it is used to extract information are nonsense. In fact, those arguments go the wrong way -- they demonstrate specific intent to harm; that is the entire point; these techniques are coercive, or presumably SERE wouldn't use them. Now, there may be other relevant arguments as to the legitimacy of an interrogation technique -- but those ain't it.
5.19.2009 8:09pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Perhaps someone can explain to me. We train our soldiers to use gas masks against gas attacks using noxious gasses. If we had used them against an enemy, that would be a war crime.

Does anyone seriously believe that using the techniques of torture as part of an anti-torture training exercise means the techniques aren't torture? Please tell me this is just a shared idiot-gotcha being sent out to fool the proles. No one smart enough to breathe regularly could really believe that? Right?

I should add, speaking for the far-left, that I think the original article misses (on purpose) an important point. George Bush took many plausible claims and ruined them by poor, reckless, cynical, and sometimes criminal implementation. Only Hannity and O'Reilly think liberals want to pardon terrorists and give them first-class airfare to anywhere in the USA they want. In real life, we were calling for honest tribunals from the beginning, not kangaroo courts full of evidence extracted under torture. In some cases Obama may be disappointing us; e.g., I'd have to look hard at his revisions to the hearsay rule. But the general idea that Obama's changes are merely cosmetic is simply not the case.
5.19.2009 8:43pm
John Moore (www):

Will someone please direct me to the libertarian case for torture? I can't wait to read it.

Soitanly

A bad guy kidnaps your three your old child, and sends you a note demanding ransom. The note also says that the child is buried in a hidden spot and will run out of air in five hours.

When you go to pay the ransom, you capture the malefactor, who laughs at you and refuses to tell you where your child is buried. You then use graduated torture on the malefactor to find our where your kid is. At the outset, you make it clear that if you find the child alive, the malefactor will not be tortured more. If you don't find the child, the malefactor will continue to be tortured.
5.19.2009 9:07pm
Anderson (mail):
Okay, there's Mr. Moore with the Hobbesian, state-of-nature argument for torture. And quite a zest for imagining terrible things happening to children, I must say. I suppose there are websites for that.
5.19.2009 9:26pm
luci:
Your right, Anderson. I'm sure there's a web site devoted to remembering the victims of the Beslan school massacre in Russia.

Flippant shithead.
5.19.2009 9:28pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
John Moore,

You then use graduated torture on the malefactor to find our where your kid is.

In which case you'd have done something prima facie criminal, but if any prosecutor was crazy enough to charge you, no jury would convict you. Right law, right result.

Any anomalies jump out at you between that and torturing someone repeatedly for weeks to get information you don't know he has? Is there a better demonstration of slippery slopes?
5.19.2009 9:35pm
Jagermeister:
People: take your medication at least two hours before commenting. Thank you.
Anderson, are you always rude and insulting, or only when you don't wish to address the issue?

Both Mr. Adler and Mr. Goldsmith appear to imply that Pres. Obama is continuing Bush policies that were previously wrong, but this is now somehow alright now because Obama is more concillitory, or better spoken about disowning the polcies? To assert that policies that were one deemed wrong should now be deemed correct becuase someone else is executing them stikes me as hypocritical in the extreme. Perhaps I misunderstand their position. Perhaps I missed some other aspect of their argument. Frankly, I neither know nor care about their policital affiliations, since it seems immaterial to me. But you, Anderson, make neither of those cases, nor offer any other refutation or additional information. You offer an (unprovable) non sequitur, and insult me. In a way that had we been face to face would have earned you a sock in the nose. Anonymity is not an excuse for being an a-hole.

I don't know if you intend to be insufferable, obnoxious, and widely disliked. But making personal attacks will earn you that reputation. If you think I'm wrong, then state so, but in the future, do it without personal insults.
5.19.2009 9:37pm
Ben P:

Both Mr. Adler and Mr. Goldsmith appear to imply that Pres. Obama is continuing Bush policies that were previously wrong, but this is now somehow alright now because Obama is more concillitory, or better spoken about disowning the polcies?


That's now how I'm reading this at all, but maybe I'm reading it wrong.

I think Goldsmith's argument is expressed more like this.

1. Obama is realistic enough to realize (once he has access to all the information) that many of Bush's national security policies were, if not perfect, arguably better solutions than most of the alternatives, and that campaign promises to dismantle many of them were ....premature. And this is a positive trait.

2. Obama is better at selling and politically supporting these policies, he's better at building congressional support and working on judicial coalitions. Whereas Bush, and more appropriately chene's public argument for his positions repeatedly seems to be much closer to "fuck you, you're wrong, and I have the power to do this."
5.19.2009 10:10pm
Ben P:
Hit enter just a bit too early.

In a way, I see it as being a bit of a "nixon in china" argument. The conventional wisdom about Nixon being able to succeed in opening relations is because he had strong enough anti-communist credentials to avoid being seen as concilliatory by opening relations.

Obama being better at implementing some Bush policies is not becuse the policies were wrong when Bush was advocating them, and right when Obama is doing it (I mean do you really think Goldsmith is that shallow?) but that these "good" policies, are more likely to be supported because people recognize that if Obama concedes that it's necessary, people are much more likely to concede that it may actually be necessary than if Bush was advocating it.
5.19.2009 10:14pm
Jagermeister:
If it's just a case of Bush being excreable at explaining or justifying his polices (which I readily conceed), and Obama being better able to sell them (because of his credibility because he is perceived as being morally superior?), then what does that say about the people who condemned the polcies in moral terms when they were Bush's, but have now switched sides now that they are Obama's?

I fully agree that the Bush admin was probably the worst at explaining or justifying their actions, often using the weakest case to argue something because (it seemed) they thought the public too stupid to follow the case. But if Bush's opponents claimed policies were wrong from a moral view, how can they accept those same polcies now just because Obama is president, without being hypocritical? Polices don't go from immoral to moral just because someone else sits in the Oval Office.
5.19.2009 10:30pm
MarkField (mail):

But if Bush's opponents claimed policies were wrong from a moral view, how can they accept those same polcies now just because Obama is president, without being hypocritical?


They can't, obviously. Though Kerr's Law suggests there's plenty of that going around.
5.19.2009 10:40pm
Ben P:

But if Bush's opponents claimed policies were wrong from a moral view, how can they accept those same polcies now just because Obama is president, without being hypocritical?


Two points

1. How much of morality is expediency?

What I mean by that is that when one persion morally criticizes a policy as "bad" or "wrong" how much does that imply a better alternative?

How many criticized Bush's policies of using Guantanimo and Military comissions imagining that the alternative is simple? It seems even Obama's read in election policy teemed imagined the alternatives to be simpler than actually implementing them is turning out.




2. I think you're over-estimating the number of people who unequivocally condemned these policies on behalf of bush, but unequivocally support them on behalf of Obama. The vast majority of more liberal sources I read have

a. Either similarly condemned Obama ("Deeply Disappointed" is a phrase I've seen more than once)

b. Found some ground (whether substantial or merely facial) to differentiate what Obama is doing from what Bush did.
5.19.2009 10:57pm
godelmetric (mail):
Jagermeister:

Maybe you should quote more context when you're arguing with Anderson:

"Goldsmith, Adler, et. al., are doing nothing more than dressing up their notion that things that are evil when done by Republicans, are now good if done by Democrats.

Riiiiight. Because Goldsmith and Adler are such Democrats and Obama-lovers.

People: take your medication at least two hours before commenting. Thank you."

The point was that your statement about Goldsmith and Adler seems to indicate that you have no idea who they are or why it's absurd to think that they have a pro-Dem agenda. Anderson was right to mock you.
5.19.2009 11:08pm
Constantin:
Obama is better at selling and politically supporting these policies, he's better at building congressional support and working on judicial coalitions. Whereas Bush, and more appropriately chene's public argument for his positions repeatedly seems to be much closer to "fuck you, you're wrong, and I have the power to do this."

This, regarding the guy whose response to intellectual challenges has been, on scores of occasions, to say "I won," either verbatim or in essence, and leave it at that.

Obama's better at building coalitions in the media because it has a fetish for him that borders on cult worship.
5.19.2009 11:12pm
Jagermeister:
godelmetric: I'm glad you think rudeness and mockery are appropriate. Thus I'm sure you'll understand if I say that I think you are a insufferable twit, and suggest you perform act of auto-eroticism upon yourself.
5.19.2009 11:15pm
Jagermeister:
We think of comment threads like dinner parties at our homes.
I apologize for my inappropriate response to "godelmetric". Emulating rudeness is not my desire.

And yes, I do know who Goldsmith and Adler are, if only from reviews of The Terror Presidency and this site.
5.19.2009 11:44pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
constantin:

he kept it secret from everyone except the congressional leaders of the opposition political party.


If and when all the facts come out, I think we will discover that any members of Congress who were briefed on waterboarding were briefed by people who were promoting the same lies that Bush et al used to snow the public for all these years. A few of those key lies are as follows:

- we only did to our prisoners the same things we do to SERE trainees
- the waterboard was used only three times
- the waterboard was used only after other methods were unsuccessful
- our interrogators were following rules established by OLC
- OLC established rules based on sound legal reasoning

All those claims are false.

it has a fetish for him that borders on cult worship


I have to agree that "cult worship" is indeed evident when a supposedly serious newspaper describes the president as a "hottie."

=============
moore:

You then use graduated torture on the malefactor to find our where your kid is.


That's one scenario. How about this one: "you then use graduated torture on the malefactor" to elicit false confessions that you then use to sell an unnecessary $3 trillion war.

Only one of those scenarios corresponds to actual events that actually happened in the actual world. Can you tell which one?

=============
sunshine:

that's Bush speaking


Good point. Let's roll the tape again. GWB, 11/11/05:

These baseless attacks send the wrong signal to our troops and to an enemy that is questioning America's will. As our troops fight a ruthless enemy determined to destroy our way of life, they deserve to know that their elected leaders who voted to send them to war continue to stand behind them.


By "send the wrong signal to our troops," I think he's pointing a finger at people who say things like this:

Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is


I think I have to agree with those who claim that the person who made that statement is indeed an enemy of America.
5.20.2009 12:40am
Bridget (mail):
2 comments:

1) It seems to me the underlying message is the policies Bush implemented/created are still valid/good, but most people just couldn't stand the messenger so they associated their feelings about the messenger with the policies. Now supposedly the messenger is well-liked, it's OK to say the policies created were valid/good - oh and tweak them a bit to make it look like they've changed somehow when in fact the main policies are still there. I guess aesthetics are more important to some people than content.

2) The behavior above is very shallow and in real emergencies can get people killed inadvertently. Additionally, it's a lot easier to criticize than create. Bush/et al had to create from scratch a mechanism to deal with 'combatant non-combatants' who attacked civilians on our soil. They didn't identify themselves as combatants as recognized in the Geneva conventions and they were hell bent to do more damage. I agree with the poster that outlined the environment in which those decisions/policies were created/made. And I believe that most in Congress agreed with them because it came down to a sense of survival, not thriving. Why there is a compunction now to disavow your beliefs at that time when the environment required it is beyond me. Self-delusion leads to self-destruction in the end.
5.20.2009 4:29am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
I guess aesthetics are more important to some people than content.


"See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda." [link]

"From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August." [link]

I believe that most in Congress agreed with them


Most Ds in the House voted against the war.

a compunction now to disavow your beliefs at that time when the environment required it


"The environment" did not require that we use torture to elicit false confessions for the purpose of selling an unnecessary war. It's not an accident that the period of peak torture coincided with the peak period of lying about WMD.

Self-delusion leads to self-destruction in the end.


"My theme is the intellectual decline of conservatism, and it is notable that the policies of the new conservatism are powered largely by emotion and religion and have for the most part weak intellectual groundings … the face of the Republican Party [has] become Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber. Conservative intellectuals [have] no party." [link]

"Harris reported recently that Democrats had a double-digit lead over the GOP on party identification in its national polling for the first time since 1983. Gallup's year-end 2008 round up found the Democratic Party has its largest advantage since 1988, when Gallup began regularly conducting telephone surveys on the subject. And a poll out last week from ABC News and the Washington Post found the fewest numbers of Republicans in their surveys since 1983. Finally, last week, Pew reported the Republicans have lost a quarter of their base since 2004." [link]

You're definitely on the right track. Keep up the good work. The country needs your inadvertent public service.
5.20.2009 7:29am
Just an Observer:
M N Ralph: That's not my understanding. I realize that waterboarding supposedly stopped a while back, but had not understood that other "enhanced interrogation" techniques were not used in 2005-2008. ... Did I miss the news that the other coercive techniques were not used in the second Bush term?

I made that statement rather sloppily off the top of my head, and I can't locate my reference, so I should state it less matter-of-factly. (Maybe I'm mistaken. I'll keep looking for where I got that impression.)

As far as I know, at least the CIA black-site prisons have not been used since shortly after Hamdan in 2006, which expressly triggered Geneva CA3 and implicitly the War Crimes Act.
5.20.2009 9:21am
jukeboxgrad (mail):
JaO:

I can't locate my reference


Maybe you saw this:

no torture or harsh interrogation techniques were employed by any U.S. interrogator for the entire second term of Cheney-Bush, 2005-2009. So, if we are to believe the protestations of Dick Cheney, that Obama's having shut down the "Cheney interrogation methods" will endanger the nation, what are we to say to Dick Cheney for having endangered the nation for the last four years of his vice presidency?


That statement is emphatic, and from a knowledgeable source.

I made that statement rather sloppily off the top of my head


FWIW, I've been reading about this subject everywhere, and I can't find anyone whose writing about it is superior to yours (in clarity, correctness, originality and insight).
5.20.2009 10:02am
M N Ralph:

Obama's better at building coalitions in the media because it has a fetish for him that borders on cult worship.


Insufferable Republican whining. Seriously, it's annoying to me but also doesn't advance your cause to keep whining about the media whenever the electorate goes against you. Getting to the issues would be a win-win.
5.20.2009 1:14pm
M N Ralph:

JaO:

I can't locate my reference

Maybe you saw this:


Thanks for the link. That's a pretty definitive statement in support of what JoA stated and news to me as well. I still find it hard to believe that Bush did not continue to use many of the coercive interrogation techniques described in the torture memos in 2005-2008 but inthe absence of contrary evidence have to accept Wilkerson's statement. I really wish we would have an independent investigation commission to get all the facts out.
5.20.2009 1:27pm
billy396 (mail):
Re; The comments of Jagermeister. That's the one thing that's so irritating. Anything questionable that a Republican does is wrong and the media jumps all over it, yet if the Dems do the same thing, it's "progressive" or "thoughtful" or the media coveniently fails to even mention a word about it. Bush was unconcerned about the Constitution when it didn't suit his views. Obama is the same, yet much worse. Nowhere in the Constitution does it give the president powers that Obama has assumed. TARP is simply a big slush fund that the exec branch can use at will. Strong-arm tactics in the house and the senate, no attempts at all re: bi-partisanship. GOP members locked out of the entire process unless it's Snowe or Spectre or their like. The Constitution does not give the pres. power to give billions to private corporations and then tell them who they must fire if they want to keep getting some of that slush fund. And giving the UAW 55% of Chrysler is pure corruption, plain and simple, in payment for the millions they donated to Obama. Obama IS corruption, yet it's not reported. And he can say that he's going to reduce the defecit, lower taxes, spend trillions (more than all of the past presidents put together). Bush took the national debt from 8 to 11 trillion, Obama wants to take it to 20 without any question. Guaranteed inflation. You can't just blindly print money and think it's going to maintain its' value.
5.20.2009 1:53pm
jukeboxgrad (mail):
Bush took the national debt from 8 to 11 trillion


Not quite right. Under GWB, the national debt grew from $5.7 trillion to $10.6 trillion. Bruce Bartlett said some interesting things about the GOP response to that event.

Guaranteed inflation.


The CBO forecasts that inflation under Obama will be much lower than inflation under Bush. That inflation forecast is in the same CBO study that is the basis of the graphic that zillions of righties are promoting (example).
5.20.2009 5:33pm
Leo Marvin (mail):
jagermeister,

If you know who Goldsmith and Adler are, how do you rationalize claiming they believe "that things that are evil when done by Republicans, are now good if done by Democrats"?
5.20.2009 9:29pm
Jagermeister:
My statement was an over reaction to a mischaracterization of the article.

But, were you really interested in knowing how my reasoning went astray, or were you just hoping to score kudo points?
5.20.2009 10:46pm
Just an Observer:
jukeboxgrad, M N Ralph:

Indeed, it was Wilkerson's statement I was thinking of. That was the most definitive statement I have seen on the question, although I also recall McCain intimating contemporaneously that there was no active coercive interrogation going on.
5.20.2009 11:06pm
Just an Observer:
FYI and a little off-topic, but I think significant:

Ari Shapiro is reporting on NPR that months before the Aug. 1, 2002 OLC torture memos, Alberto Gonzales may have given permission for some coercive interrogation techniques used on Abu Zubaydah by a CIA contractor.
5.21.2009 12:26am
Just an Observer:
And closer on-topic, Michael Isikoff reported on Rachel Maddow's show that a a White House meeting Wednesday with human rights groups, Eric Holder sat silent while Obama "sort of curtly dismissed the idea" of prosecuting any Bush officials for anything related to torture.
5.21.2009 12:50am
Just an Observer:
Oh, and there is news that one Guantanamo detainee will be tried in the SDNY, in the custody of the United States government.

Run for your lives.
5.21.2009 12:59am
Leo Marvin (mail):
Jagermeister:

If you know who Goldsmith and Adler are, how do you rationalize claiming they believe "that things that are evil when done by Republicans, are now good if done by Democrats"?

My statement was an over reaction to a mischaracterization of the article.

But, were you really interested in knowing how my reasoning went astray, or were you just hoping to score kudo points?

I think my question was straightforward, civil, and as your answer confirmed, justified. What's your basis for questioning my motives?
5.21.2009 2:54am
Just an Observer:
Here is Isikoff's report in Newsweek about Obama's meeting with the human rights groups.

The sources, all of whom asked not to be identified because of the White House insistence that the meeting was private, also said Attorney General Eric Holder sat by silently while the president curtly dismissed the idea that his Justice Department should criminally prosecute at least one Bush administration official for torture, if only as a symbolic move to demonstrate that actions such as waterboarding will never be tolerated again.


This contrasts with the public position Obama took a few weeks ago deferring to Holder's judgment on the matter. The correct answer for Obama yesterday would have been to repeat that assurance.

When Holder was nominated, the key rap against him from some critics (including Prof. Adler) was that he was too politically malleable (as demonstrated by his history on pardons with Clinton). I gave Holder the benefit of the doubt then.

But increasingly it looks like the attorney general is bending -- or allowing himself to be bent -- to Obama's political agenda.
5.21.2009 4:07pm

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