This week the Republicans have finalized their descent to irrelevance. Two prominent spokesmen for the right have diminished the national debate, and themselves, with irresponsible statements meant to rewrite history. George Will opining in Newsweek and Dick Cheney speaking at the American Enterprise Institute together provide the two bookends for the encyclopedia of Republican attacks on reason.
George Will has concluded bizarrely that liberals are "...bothered by the automobile. It subverted their agenda of expanding government -- meaning their supervision of other people's lives." Huh?
Well. The statement contains a number of truly ridiculous assertions. First, being labeled a liberal myself, I have never been "bothered by the automobile" nor are any of my friends particularly annoyed by the newfangled horseless carriage. But the truly outrageous claim is that liberals want to supervise other people's lives, particularly in light of the dangerously intrusive policies implemented by Republicans.
Let us examine what Party wishes to supervise the lives of American citizens. Republicans want the government to sit in the examining room with a doctor and patient to ensure that a woman does not exercise any control over her own reproductive destiny. Republicans interfered directly with Terri Schiavo's doctors and family, preventing her from dying with dignity. Republicans spied illegally on American citizens. Is that not the worst kind of supervision? Republicans arrested American citizens and deprived them of habeas corpus. Republicans want to force schools to teach Intelligent Design in our classrooms, supervising the curriculum of our children. We will next be teaching the "stork theory of reproduction" as they supervise sex education. Republicans, not Democrats, have committed the greatest sins of government supervision, to a degree never before seen in our history.
What about fiscal policy? Well, all of the largest tax increases, national debts and deficits, and increases in the total size of government have come under Republican presidents. We'll see at the end of Obama's first term how his deficits fit in that long line of Republican irresponsibility. If Republicans wish to claim that tax policy is a means for government to supervise the lives of American citizens, they are to blame for the most egregious examples, with their hero Ronald Reagan being the worst practitioner of all.
The Republican claim that Democrats aspire to the "supervision of other people's lives" is raw meat to the devoted but completely dissociated from reality.
And now we have Dick Cheney and his new-found love for publicity in place of his previously never-ending series of undisclosed locations. Dick is out on the stump defending torture, claiming that Obama is undermining our security by being a wimp. If you're not pulling fingernails, you're with the terrorists.
Let's look at that for a moment. Cheney defends torture on the argument that coercive interrogation was essential to saving American lives. Why, then, would he stop at waterboarding? What if simulated drowning was not sufficient to get the vital information needed in the "ticking bomb scenario" that he so often cites? If torture really works, and yields information that will prevent disaster, would he not want to do whatever was necessary to extract that information to save American lives: poking out eyes, skinning prisoners alive, pulling fingernails, or lopping off limbs. By limiting the techniques to waterboarding is he showing a lack of commitment to our national security?
Cheney cannot have it both ways. He needs to answer the following questions directly: how far are you willing to go to extract information from a prisoner? If torture works, and can be justified morally as a means of protecting us against attack, how can you justify limiting torture to waterboarding? What if sticking a hot poker into a prisoner's eye would yield the location of a nuclear bomb, would you do that? If not, why not?
Once we condone torture, we have no justification for limiting the techniques used. Pretending to drown someone is OK to save Americans, but shocking genitals is a no-no. On what grounds?
If Cheney agrees that he would use that hot poker to reveal the location of a nuclear bomb, he is a war criminal, a torturer no different than the thugs that Saddam used to torture his opponents. If he would not use that hot poker, he is admitting that torture is wrong, and therefore that waterboarding is wrong. And he is therefore a war criminal for approving waterboarding.
But the problem is not only that Cheney's position on torture is untenable. He has no credibility. Cheney never served in the military and has no field experience. His views on the efficacy of torture are counter to expressed views of experts from the FBI, CIA, and multiple branches of the military. The man has zero standing on this issue.
Let us be clear how wrong Cheney has been on the most important national security issue of our time, the war in Iraq. He is equally wrong about torture as his many false statements about the war:
In 2005, he claimed the insurgency in Iraq was "in the last throes." It was not.
"In terms of the question what is there now, we know for example that prior to our going in that he had spent time and effort acquiring mobile biological weapons labs, and we're quite confident he did, in fact, have such a program. We've found a couple of semi trailers at this point which we believe were, in fact, part of that program." He was wrong.
"I continue to believe. I think there's overwhelming evidence that there was a connection between al-Qaeda and the Iraqi government. I mean, this is a guy who was an advocate and a supporter of terrorism whenever it suited his purpose, and I'm very confident that there was an established relationship there." He was wrong. Saddam had no ties to al Qaeda, and Cheney knew that when he made this statement.
"Saddam Hussein had a lengthy history of reckless and sudden aggression. His regime cultivated ties to terror, including the al Qaeda network, and had built, possessed, and used weapons of mass destruction." Another knowingly false statement trying to tie Saddam to al Qaeda.
Saddam Hussein "now is trying through his illicit procurement network to acquire the equipment he needs to be able to enrich uranium." This proved to be untrue, and was know by intelligence reports to be highly unlikely when he made this statement.
Cheney falsely claimed that insurgents were timing their attacks to influence the mid-term election in the United States. The claim was so absurd that even President Bush finally had to go public and disavow the statement, admitting that they had no intelligence to suggest anything like what Cheney was claiming.
Concerning our treatment of prisoners at Gitmo, Cheney said, "There isn't any other nation in the world that would treat people who were determined to kill Americans the way we're treating these people." Did he mean that other countries would not have stooped low enough to waterboard a prisoner 83 times?
Be crystal clear that the intelligence community has concluded unambiguously that Saddam had no ties to al Qaeda prior to our invasion. President Bush was eventually forced to state that publicly. Cheney was so desperate to make the connection, however, that prisoners were tortured specifically to get them to admit to a link between Saddam and al Qaeda.
Be crystal clear that interrogation experts from multiple agencies conclude that torture does not work.
Cheney is a man with no military or field experience, who was wrong about every major aspect of Iraq, and who holds an untenable position on torture. And people take him seriously? Until he comes clean and answers those specific questions about torture, he needs to go back to his undisclosed locations.
Given what Cheney has done to undermine our national security, his efforts to paint Obama's policies as making us vulnerable to attack are grotesque. Forget not that 9/11 happened on his watch. He has nothing to say about what it takes to protect us.