THE BLOG

Only a Cigarette Burn

05/14/2006 02:53 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

President Bush spent his entire life denying his cruelty, whether it was cruelty to animals, people, or to social structure. He continues to do so, as innocents from Iraq to New Orleans will attest. Our Constitution -- the current institution I have in mind -- cannot speak.

But when Bush gets confronted -- rarely by the media or by Congress -- he avoids facing facts by using a variety of psychological defenses. One of his favorites is to deny the seriousness of what he has done. It's not the same as denying the misdeed; it is minimizing its consequences.

In 1967, when he was a college senior, Bush branded fraternity pledges on their buttocks with red-hot coat hangers. One pledge (or the parent of a pledge) complained, and because Bush came from a famous family, a New York Times reporter interviewed him. Bush retorted that he didn't understand what the big deal was, that what his victims suffered was "no worse than a cigarette burn." Somehow, the reporter let that response stand.

Fast forward to May 11, 2006 and we see the same pattern of inflicting harm -- this time trampling on our civil liberties and rights of privacy -- while again denying the seriousness of what he is doing. He said "we are not mining or trolling through the personal lives of innocent Americans." He means that he really isn't doing anything that bad -- as in 1967 when he was simply upholding fraternity demands for loyalty.

In military terms -- ones that CIA nominee General Hayden would understand -- we are mere collateral damage in the search for "links to Al Qaeda and their known affiliates." Trampling on our civil liberties -- on the Constitution and the heart of America -- is no worse than a cigarette burn.

My questions to the media and to Congress are these: Who goes around burning people with cigarettes? And why do we let his excuses stand?