May 17, 2009

(h/t Heather)

Centuries from now, when historians want to know how it all went so terribly wrong for the United States, all they need to do is look at this clip. They'll listen how these talking heads--people allegedly employed for the purpose of informing the public--these supposed erudite and informed members of the pundit class just yawned and shrugged at the notion of the torture of human beings, preferring to look at it from a political point of view.

Think about that for a second. The issue is not horror that these events happened--and happened often. It's not outrage that it was done ostensibly to gin up a relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda to justify the illegal invasion and occupation of the country. It's not shock that we have moved so far afield from our own laws and signed treaties, much less morals. No, instead, these "journalists"--save for Andrew Sullivan--express some mild curiosity over whether Dick Cheney's recent verbosity is trying to "guide" Barack Obama's national security policy.

FINEMAN: With Dick Cheney, it’s hard to separate the apocalyptic from the political, and he really believes that Obama was out, from the first day in office, to dismantle what Bush and Chemey had done, on tribunals, on Guantanamo, on enhanced interrogations techniques. He took it as a personal affront as well as a danger to the country. So he’s fighting back on it on a personal level and has been practically from Day One.

MATTHEWS: Well, you say on a personal level, but is this to help Obama or to hurt him?

FINEMAN: Well, he thinks it’s to hurt Obama, and thereby, make the country safer. I don’t think anybody questions his belief in the efficacy of the policies that he, Cheney, put in. It’s just everybody else in the world who has questions about whether those policies in fact did make us safer.

Like how Fineman frames this? Nobody should question Cheney's motives, the only question is whether the end justifies the means. It's a variation on the Jack Bauer justification--if Cheney could somehow quantify that we have been made safer, then it's all good to Howard.

MATTHEWS: This administration has been very careful, I think Rahm Emanuel had something to do with it, and the President, to pick its enemies. They like Rush Limbaugh. They like Sean Hannity, people like that. Middleweights, they can handle. Do they want Dick Cheney as their enemy and do they see him that way right now?

GUTHRIE: I think they don’t mind at all if Cheney is front and center on this issue. They think, you know, if he’s the messenger, that’s great for them. But what they have to worry about is that he doesn’t land any punches, that this argument doesn’t have greater resonance. That somehow we are less safe, because that potentially could hurt them. But anytime we’re talking aobut Dick Cheney, people in the White House are delighted.

Methinks that Rush is going to be screaming for an apology from Matthews for calling him a "middleweight", something that cannot possibly be used to describe Limbaugh with any honesty. But beyond that, how insulting is it that Matthews strictly sees this as a political issue? Does Obama want Cheney as an enemy? What is this, high school? In fact, when Sullivan gives him an impassioned speech on what this really is about, Matthews gives him a halfhearted "yeah" and then redirects the discussion back to politicking.

SULLIVAN: We know the man who interrogated Zubaydah to begin with said we got everything we want, and Cheney came in and said torture him to prove the Saddam/al Qaeda connection. That is an unbelievable abuse of government power.

MATTHEWS: Okay, let me ask you what Cheney’s up to politically. Is he trying to set up a situation whereby when and if this country’s hit at any point in the next several years, he can say I told you so?

Ugh...but Sullivan isn't above pulling the partisan card on this either, bemoaning where the real conservatives are to protest, a tactic he's used before.

SULLIVAN: He authorized—and we now know this—the torture of human beings. We know this from the Red Cross; we know this from the Office of Legal Counsel memos. We know this from the Senate Armed Services Committee report. We know the policies that he enforced and pioneered and insisted upon led to the torture of hundreds…thousands of human beings. Now those are war crimes. If the government…if the government has the power to torture evidence…where are conservatives on this? Where are conservatives who believe in restraining executive power and the dangers of torturing people? This is a very profound issue; it’s the biggest issue of the last eight years. This man is very afraid and he has every reason to be afraid. What are we going to do about it?

Well, I know one thing we aren't going to do. We're not going to get anything approaching an honest discussion about the real issues on The Chris Matthews Show.

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