Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Dubya, Dick -- And Dick Again...

A Republican with an almost encyclopedic memory when it comes to political history sends along a simple e-mail with the subject-header, "Eeerie echoes":

"I am not a crook!"
Richard M. Nixon (11 months into his second term, November, 17 1973)

"We do not torture!"
George W. Bush (11 months into his second term, November, 7 2005)
Now, the juxtaposition of the two quotes doesn't mean that Bush is leaving office by summer of next year. The political dynamics are very different: For one thing, Republicans control both houses of Congress and aren't likely to open an impeachment inquiry to a president of their own party.

I'm not exactly a fan of the current administration, but I hardly think that decisions made heading into war reach the impeachment level (others may respectfully disagree). However, there is one clear clear similarity between the two statements. Both are reflections of a president feeling the need to reassure the public in the face of the steady drip-drip-drip of stories that undermine the president's credibility -- personal and organizational. Finally, they are also words that you don't want to hear coming out of any president's mouth: They fall into the "If you're explaining, you're losing" category of political lessons: Just having a president utter those words guarantees them greater prominence in media coverage of whatever the underlying issue may be.

For Nixon, it was Watergate; for Bush, it is Iraq and the other various tangential issues associated with it -- including the torture policy.

There's hardly a stronger voice for Bush's War on Terror than Heritage Foundation fellow Peter Brookes. However, he basically says that
John McCain is right -- and Dick Cheney is wrong on the issue of congressional oversight on how detainees should be treated under control of the United States. And, the president is suddenly placed in a public position of playing "good cop" when it comes to the United States and torture -- while the vice president plays "bad cop."

However the issue is resolved, the very fact that there even appears to be a public debate going on within an administration is troubling in and of itself.

UPDATE: Ramesh Ponnuru over at NRO also comes down on McCain's side.

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