National Journal's Stuart Taylor (whose legal analysis is, quite inexplicably, taken very seriously by the Beltway media) acknowledges that the Bush administration tortured detainees, but argues that those responsible have already "suffered" enough for their misdeeds. See, they've been called names, and their public appearances have been picketed:
Of course, when all is said and done, there is little doubt that some CIA detainees were tortured. This is a stain on our nation's honor that should never be repeated. But the responsibility was so widely diffused, across such a large number of honorably motivated officials who tried (and sometimes failed) to stay within the law, that it makes no sense to seek to atone for the nation's sins by singling out individuals for bar discipline or other punishment.
This is especially true when those individuals have already suffered greatly from being trashed as "war criminals," picketed at public appearances, stalked by grandstanding Spanish judges, and otherwise harassed across the country and around the globe.
Sure, John Yoo said it was fine with him if George W. Bush wanted to order interrogators to crush a child's testicles. But the man has been picketed! What more must he endure? Leave him alone!
Oh, and Taylor worries that a torture "truth commission" might become "adversarial":
The sort of fact-finding "truth commission" that many have advocated could report on what was done and the lessons learned -- although it could do more harm than good if such a panel conducted the sort of adversarial hearings that would become a public circus.
Yeah, we wouldn't want anyone to raise their voice to a guy who said it is OK to crush a child's testicles. That would be ... Rude. Or something.
Once again: Who cares what Stuart Taylor thinks?
John Mercurio has a good piece at National Journal's web page, looking at the dubious media meme that health care reform would have happened by now were it not for the late Sen. Edward Kennedy's absence from the Senate.
As Mercurio notes, both Democrats and Republicans have been pushing that idea for quite some time, though for different purposes. But I think he misses a subtle implication in the comments from some Republicans. Here's Mercurio:
Last weekend on ABC's "This Week," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Kennedy's absence had made a "huge, huge difference" in the health care debate. "No person in that institution is indispensable, but Ted Kennedy comes as close to being indispensable as any individual I've ever known in the Senate," he said.
For Republicans, it's a chance to humanize themselves at little cost. Worried that they'll ultimately be viewed as the party that blocked meaningful reform, they are using Kennedy as a convenient foil. If only he had been here, they say, Kennedy would have used his magic touch to reach a meaningful compromise, bringing us on board.
What I think Mercurio misses is that Republicans -- including McCain and Orrin Hatch, who he also quotes -- are using Kennedy to implicitly criticize Democratic Senators, suggesting that Kennedy, unlike other Senate liberals, would have caved by now. Here's another McCain comment from This Week:
"He had a unique way of sitting down with the parties at a table and making the right concessions, which really are the essence of successful negotiations," McCain said. "So it's huge that he's absent, not only because of my personal affection for him, but because I think the health care reform might be in a very different place today."
Got that? According to McCain, had Kennedy been active in Senate negotiations, he would have made "the right concessions." And what is the key concession Republicans like McCain have been demanding? The elimination of a public option. By McCain's telling, there is no health care agreement because Senate Democrats haven't dropped the public plan like Kennedy would have.
Hatch made much the same claim on NBC's Meet the Press last Sunday, saying of Kennedy "the first thing he would have done would have been to call me and say, 'Let's work this out.' And we would work it out so that the best of both worlds would work" -- then adding "I would never go to a federal government program. If we do that, we'll bankrupt the country."
So Hatch, like McCain, claims that Kennedy would have gotten an agreement done by dropping the public plan.
Republicans may be, as Mecurio says, using Kennedy's absence to "humanize themselves" -- but they're also using it to subtly bash Senate Democrats for not dropping the public plan, as they claim Kennedy would have done. Whether that is accurate, fair, or in good taste is for others to decide. But it is the clear meaning of their statements.
Numerous media figures have pointed to a sentence from a 2001 speech by Sonia Sotomayor to characterize her or her comments as being "racist" while ignoring the point of Sotomayor's speech, which undercuts their criticisms.
Some media figures have postulated that if a white male or a conservative had made the equivalent of Sonia Sotomayor's "wise Latina" remark, they would be branded a racist, "run out of town," "properly banished from polite society," or "railroaded off the [judicial] bench."
In two days, a Republican strategist's baseless suggestion that Nancy Pelosi could fall victim to "a coup in Congress" spread from his Politico.com op-ed to all three cable news channels, TheFoxNation.com, a New York Times blog, and the print edition of The Wall Street Journal.
In his National Journal column, Stuart Taylor wrote that, according to the CIA, the harsh interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed "averted a planned attack" on the Library Tower. But according to the Bush administration, the plot was thwarted at least a month before Zubaydah's capture and more than a year before Mohammed's.
National Journal repeatedly referred to how Sen. John McCain "buck[ed] his party on immigration" prior to 2008, but did not address McCain's flip-flop on immigration reform during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Articles by the AP and The New York Times uncritically quoted Sen. John McCain's labeling of Sen. Barack Obama as "the most liberal" senator without mentioning that the National Journal rankings to which McCain was referring did not offer a ranking for McCain himself because he "did not vote frequently enough" to receive one. They also did not mention that the ranking was based on subjectively selected votes, or that a separate study that considers all non-unanimous votes offers a notably different ranking for Obama.
The Los Angeles Times reported of Sen. Barack Obama: "National Journal magazine has ranked him as the most liberal member of the Senate." In relying on National Journal's rankings, the article ignored a more comprehensive vote study by two political science professors that placed Obama in a tie for the ranking of 10th most liberal senator in 2007.