This absolutely must be heard to be believed. Chuck Todd is more than mere Villager in this interview with the, ahem, Constitutional scholar Glenn Greenwald, he is defender of the Bush Administration, and any administration's ability to make up their own rules. In Todd's Politics Uber Alles worldview, losing an election is the best/worst punishment for any Presidential wrong-doing. This is the line Cheney has used, as well: that because Bush "won" two elections, their power was absolute and inviolable for at least the term of office, and now it appears, beyond.
Audio from Salon Radio, where the full transcript is also available.
Glenn Greenwald: So what do you think happens - I think what has destroyed our reputation is announcing to the world that we tolerate torture, and telling the world we don't --
Chuck Todd: We have elections, we also had an election where this was an issue. A new president, who came in there, and has said, we're not going to torture, we're going to do this, and we're going to do this--
GG: What do you think should happen when presidents--
CT: Is that not enough? Isn't that enough?
GG: When, generally, if I go out and rob a bank tomorrow, what happens to me is not that I lose an election. What happens is to me is that I go to prison. So, what do you think should happen when presidents get caught committing crimes in office? What do you think ought to happen?
CT: You see, this is where, this is not - you cannot sit here and say this is as legally black and white as a bank robbery because this was an ideological, legal --
GG: A hundred people died in detention. A hundred people. The United States Government admits that there are homicides that took place during interrogations. Waterboarding and these other techniques are things that the United States has always prosecuted as torture.
Until John Yoo wrote that memo, where was the lack of clarity about whether or not these things were illegal? Where did that lack of clarity or debate exist? They found some right-wing ideologues in the Justice Department to say that this was okay, that's what you're endorsing. As long the president can do that, he's above the law. And I don't see how you can say that you're doing anything other than endorsing a system of lawlessness where the president is free to break the law?
CT: Well, look, I don't believe I'm endorsing a system of lawlessness; I'm trying to put in the reality that as much that there is a legal black and white here, there is a political reality that clouds this, and you know it does too.
Glenn Greenwald is too much of a class act to point out that the "political reality" Todd is defending is about a group of Washington insiders who KNOW that they attended cocktail parties with those who knew about and permitted torture and murder of prisoners of war under the aegis of the United States Government. That unpleasant political reality is something the Georgetown Power Set, a group for whom Todd curries favor, does not want to acknowledge for fear it will sour their bipartisan seven-layer dip.
Memo to Chuck: Glenn soured the dip and drank your milkshake. Go find that copy of the Constitution you didn't read before you dropped out of college. Really.
If the conventional wisdom were to shift on torture, say if a different administration and their allies in the village decided that it was important for America's image that these investigations take place, Todd would be right on board with it. (This was, in fact, why I thought the Obama administration would legitimately want to pursue these investigations and Todd's bizarre repetition of the talking point that torture investigations will harm America's image abroad is quite telling. You can be sure he didn't come up with that all by himself.) He has no independent judgment and zero insight into his role in the political process.
I would just write him off as another fluffy spokesmodel except he's got a real job as political director at NBC news. As shocking as it seems, he's really quite powerful. His shallow understanding of the issues at stake --- the reduction of absolutely everything, (even torture and murder) to the insider political parlor game are the most important requirement for advancement in the beltway press and he has that function totally mastered.
Heather: Below is Chuck Todd's appearance on Morning Joe, where he decries torture investigations as political "catnip". This appearance precipitated the interview above.