Monday"s NYT piece on the unraveling of the torture program during the second Bush term provokes a key question, and provides a stark answer. If, as the article reports, the Bush administration, due to rampant internal debate, had stopped waterboarding and walling and all the other repellent practices by 2005, what is Dick Cheney doing in 2009 saying that the Obama administration's rejection of those practices is making us less safe?
Of course, Cheney's resort to old-style Republican "the Democrats hate America" rhetoric is amusingly disturbing in any case. But if he's re-fighting an internal argument he lost four years ago, what's the point?
Three words: "don't prosecute me."
Cheney's goal is now revealed: to stir up enough passion on the Republican side to make a decision to prosecute the Bush administration's torture syndicate a political hot potato.
Without the former Vice President's publicity tour ginning up a "torture debate," public revulsion at the revelations in the declassified torture memos, and at the photographs the Pentagon is preparing to release, might have made prosecution not only politically desirable, but, to use a Tenetism, a slam dunk.
So why didn't the Obama administration react by saying publicly that Cheney was defending practices his own boss had disowned? Why was it necessary to set the usual "high administration officials who insisted on anonymity" loose on the Times?
Whatever the answer to that question, one waits eagerly to see what Cheney says now, as he sits down with Regis and Kelly and the ladies of The View.