After the Long Night…
Thought we’d start off the day with a round-up of some of the news as my coffee pot gets going with the morning brew. We can pore through the bits and pieces together and see what’s gone on in the last few hours or so.
— Alberto Gonzales will be testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning, beginning at 9:30 am ET. Will try and watch, although the peanut is home today which always makes it a bit more challenging. (Am hoping C-Span will have coverage that I can stream.) Wonder if he’ll be under oath this time?
— Yesterday, NPR had a good review of the thorny relationship (at least publicly) between Gonzales and Specter. Included in the piece is bits and pieces of an interview with Bruce Fein and some quotes from Pat Leahy. It’s worth a listen, just for some "inside baseball" background on some of the personalities at play in all of this.
— Joseph Margulies had an op-ed in yesterday’s WaPo regarding the newly articulated policies for the DoD following the Hamdan decision. And how those policies may not be so new after all. (Margulies was the lead counsel in Rasul v. Bush.)
…But the devil, as they say, is in the details, and important questions remain unanswered. First, England says that "aside from the military commission procedures," the U.S. military already complies with Common Article 3. Detainees in military custody, he says, have always been treated humanely. (The memo is conspicuously silent on whether the same can be said for people held by the CIA.) Since humane treatment is "the overarching requirement of Common Article 3," a formal commitment to the rule requires no change in military practice.
But we know what the administration means by humane treatment. These are the same people who said it was humane to hold a prisoner in solitary confinement with no human contact except interrogators and guards until, according to an FBI agent, he became delusional. Then it was humane to subject the same prisoner to an eight-week series of interrogations that lasted 18 to 20 hours a day. Interrogators doused him with water if he fell asleep and forced him to stand at attention for hours at a time if he did not cooperate. They made him bark like a dog and growl at pictures of terrorists, tied a leash to his neck and led him around the room, and made him perform a series of dog tricks. They forced him to wear a bra and place a thong on his head. They forcibly administered an enema. Even when his heartbeat slowed to 35 beats a minute and he was placed in a doctor’s care, loud music was played in his cell to "prevent detainee from sleeping." (All of this according to the Pentagon.) If this interrogation was not cruel, humiliating and degrading, if it did not offend personal dignity, then the words have no meaning.
The second question left unanswered by England’s memo has to do with a widely reported, behind-the-scenes battle between the Pentagon and senior administration officials. England’s memo cites the 1992 version of the Army field manual on interrogations, FM 34-52, and says — correctly — that the manual complies with Common Article 3. In fact, the field manual explicitly directs interrogators to comply with the Geneva Conventions. It also orders interrogators to refrain from using any technique that would violate the rights of a U.S. soldier if it were used on him.
But what England’s memo does not say is that the administration jettisoned this field manual in the war on terror and that the 1992 version is being amended. In the new manual, senior administration officials have pressed hard to let interrogators use techniques that violate Common Article 3. Senior military officers, on the other hand, have resisted this pressure. This continues a pattern set in the earliest days of the war on terror, with the administration pushing the Pentagon to adopt techniques not sought by senior military planners….
It’s a good read in advance of the Gonzales testimony today.
— The NYTimes makes the case against the exercise of unitary executive power under the Bush Administration.
Over and over again, the same pattern emerges: Given a choice between following the rules or carving out some unprecedented executive power, the White House always shrugged off the legal constraints. Even when the only challenge was to get required approval from an ever-cooperative Congress, the president and his staff preferred to go it alone. While no one questions the determination of the White House to fight terrorism, the methods this administration has used to do it have been shaped by another, perverse determination: never to consult, never to ask and always to fight against any constraint on the executive branch.
One result has been a frayed democratic fabric in a country founded on a constitutional system of checks and balances. Another has been a less effective war on terror.
If you haven’t had a chance to read George Soros’ book "The Age of Fallibility," you should. And take a peek at last Sunday’s chat about it. Mr. Soros will be joining us next Sunday for the second half of the chat, and this NYTimes editorial hits some of the notes that Mr. Soros also points to in his thoughtful tome.
— An op-ed in The Washington Times blames bad lawyering for the poor decisions that George Bush has made that led to the Hamdan smackdown. First among the failures is John Yoo, according to Nat Hentoff, who says in his WaTimes op-ed:
Now that Congress has been forced by the Supreme Court to partake in the separation of powers on the issues that Mr. Yoo cites — and others arising from this decision — I wonder (though may never find out) how the president feels about how his place in history has been marred by the advice of Messrs. Yoo, Addington, Gonzales, Ashcroft, Bybee, Flanigan and Haynes — these names should be remembered. Mr. Bush, clearly and deeply committed to protecting national security, has been crucially misled by his advisers, as have many other Americans.
President Nixon was compelled to leave office because of his belief in the limitless powers of "the unitary executive." Yet, according to Glenn Greenwald’s current book "How Would a Patriot Act?" Nixon, in an interview three years after his resignation, said and still believed, "When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal." Does George W. Bush finally agree with James Madison that "The preservation of our liberty requires that the three great departments of power should be separate and distinct"?
— Speak of Glenn, he has been doing some great work the last few days on extremism and the right wing blogosphere. Well worth a read. Kudos to Glenn for being willing to go diving through the muck to show real, honest examples of calls for violence and worse from some of the biggest names on the right. Jamison Foser has even more at Media Matters.
— Charlie Savage has another great piece on signing statements in the Boston Globe. This time it is in reference to the Scalia dissent in Hamdan giving weight to a Presidential signing statement as part of Scalia’s analysis.
— Richard Epstein, who is a law professor at UChicago and a staunchly conservative libertarian type, takes issue with signing statements and their effect on both the legislative and judiciary branches of government as the executive branch seeks to gra a disproportionate segment of power, in an op-ed in the ChiTrib. Good on him.
— Robert Bazell, NBC’s chief science correspondent, call the upcoming stem cell votes "a sham." I’m not certain that I agree with him on that — I’d say more of a well-choreographed election year scam, but that’s just me.
— The Bush Administration is going to tinker with Medicare again. And they did such a heckuva job with Part D, didn’t they?
— I’d love to know everyone’s thoughts on this Jonathon Chait piece from the LATimes.
— Billmon has been doing some amazing writing the last few days. If you haven’t been reading at the Whiskey Bar, you are truly missing out.
— And a housekeeping matter, I forgot to link up the transcript for the MtP from Sunday with the Novak interview. For some good deconstruction on the facts, Media Matters puts some more past quotes from Novak together. And it looks like Novak’s fellow journalists…well, they don’t believe you, Bob. (from E&P)
— Cenk from the Young Turks has an article up at HuffPo that hits some of the issues we talked about yesterday on the open mike idiocy. (And, honestly, how often do you get to see the President of the United States chewing on food while he’s talking and have a bit of masticated roll dangling out of his mouth…classy.)
— What in the hell is going on here? As if this were not weird enough. This isn’t a Sigma Chi kegger, it’s the G8 Summit, for hell’s sakes, and these are two heads of state having a meeting, interrupted by the Frat Boy in Chief acting like a juvenile goober. And, as a woman, I have to say in all honesty, that whole sneak up from behind thing in a professional context…so not funny. It puts you off balance, and to do so in a business context is to undermine your confidence in an already male-centric environment.
It would have served him right if her self-defense training had kicked in…