Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

11/19/2009 (5:14 pm)

On Trying KSM in Court

Lindsey Graham is not my favorite Senator by any means, but he demolished Erich Holder in this 4-minute exchange in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Listen:

The lawyers over at Power Line Blog have a pretty good analysis of this that, not coincidentally, concurs with my layman’s opinion. Holder’s attempt to defend the absence of Miranda rights for Osama bin Laden on the basis that his guilt “is so overwhelming” would not survive 5 seconds of scrutiny in any court in America, nor should it; he offered it because he was on the spot and had nowhere to hide. He was on the spot because Graham was clearly correct: if US courtroom standards apply to the 9/11 plotters, then they apply to all such detainees. Holder can’t have it both ways.

The Obama administration’s argument that they’re genuinely offering Kalid Sheik Mohamed a fair trial and full rights according to the rule of law is contradicted by their claim that the outcome is certain. If the outcome is certain, the trial is a show trial like the show trials of the Stalinistas in the 1940s’ Soviet Union. If KSM has full rights, the outcome cannot be certain. The juxtaposition of those two claims — rule of law, outcome certain — is the consequence of the Holder Justice Department having decided beforehand on other grounds that they were going to try KSM in federal court, and then justify the decision by whatever means they needed to manufacture.

So, on what other grounds did they decide that they were going to try KSM in federal court? I believe John Yoo, former Bush administration counsel and favorite whipping-boy of the insane left, gives us a clue when he describes what happened when we tried Zacarias Moussaoui in an American court:

For a preview of the KSM trial, look at what happened in the case of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker who was arrested in the U.S. just before 9/11. His trial never made it to a jury. Moussaoui’s lawyers tied the court up in knots.

All they had to do was demand that the government hand over all its intelligence on him. The case became a four-year circus, giving Moussaoui a platform to air his anti-American tirades. The only reason the trial ended was because, at the last minute, Moussaoui decided to plead guilty. That plea relieved the government of the choice between allowing a fishing expedition into its intelligence files or dismissing the charges…

Prosecutors will be forced to reveal U.S. intelligence on KSM, the methods and sources for acquiring its information, and his relationships to fellow al Qaeda operatives. The information will enable al Qaeda to drop plans and personnel whose cover is blown. It will enable it to detect our means of intelligence-gathering, and to push forward into areas we know nothing about.

This is not hypothetical, as former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy has explained. During the 1993 World Trade Center bombing trial of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman (aka the “blind Sheikh”), standard criminal trial rules required the government to turn over to the defendants a list of 200 possible co-conspirators.

In essence, this list was a sketch of American intelligence on al Qaeda. According to Mr. McCarthy, who tried the case, it was delivered to bin Laden in Sudan on a silver platter within days of its production as a court exhibit.

Bin Laden, who was on the list, could immediately see who was compromised. He also could start figuring out how American intelligence had learned its information and anticipate what our future moves were likely to be.

Leftists historically love to use courtroom rules as a vehicle to produce documentary evidence regarding government “misbehavior” as they perceive it. This was the motivation behind the dozens of lawsuits filed against phone companies for cooperating with the Bush administration in eavesdropping on possible terrorists, as I discussed here more than a year ago.

Is there documentary evidence that leftists desire to be made public related to Kalid Sheik Mohamed? Oh, you betcha. They’re already investigating the CIA, but you can be sure that KSM’s attorneys are going to bring up the manner of his interrogation in order to invalidate his confession. What will follow will be a public trial of the Bush administration’s interrogation policy, carried out in the pages of the New York Times by reporters already known to be hostile to the Bush administration. Also, I’m willing to bet that the choice of venue was influenced by the Justice Department’s knowledge of the judicial habits of the panel of judges in that district; they’re expecting liberal interpretations of evidence rules requiring government disclosure. Count on it.

Is that the goal? To be sure, trying KSM and the other 9/11 plotters as criminals has been the misguided aim of the ACLU and other hard leftists for years. They claim to be defending the rule of law. The ideologically-driven selectivity of their idea of the rule of law notwithstanding, I accept this as at least a plausible goal of some of the less-well-informed dupes of the neo-Marxist left.

However, the better-educated of these folks harbor ulterior motives. If they attempted publicly to try Bush administration officials, they would surely trigger violent reactions, fueled by accusations of attempting to criminalize policy differences. They do want to criminalize those policy differences, as I discussed here and here, but I think they also fear the repercussions. So, they’ve chosen a less direct route; they’ll try the 9/11 plotters, but in a forum that allows those plotters to turn the trial into a trial of the Bush administration. That way, they can pretend they’re defending the rule of law while continuing to vilify the good men who protected us from terrorist attack from 2001 through 2008.

Never believe what leftists say about their intentions, especially when their defense is so utterly lame in the face of easily predictable questions.

05/21/2009 (9:59 am)

Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

Victor Davis Hanson yesterday drew attention to the “tales told by idiots” department, declaring the era of “Bush Shredded the Constitution” over in the wake of the Senate Democrats’ defeat of funding for Obama’s plan to close down Guantanamo.

With the Democratic no-go on Guantánamo (I’ll leave it to the better informed to ascertain the degree that the Democratic Congress came to the rescue of an embarrassed Obama administration and cut off funding for the shutdown to allow him an out with the now familiar excuse of “they did it — not me, who keeps promises”), I think we now have come to the end to the five-year left-wing attack theme of Bush “shredding the Constitution.”

Except for the introduction of euphemisms and a few new ballyhooed but largely meaningless protocols, there is no longer a Bush-did-it argument. The Patriot Act, wiretaps, e-mail intercepts, military tribunals, Predator drone attacks, Iraq, Afghanistan — and now Guantánamo — are officially no longer part of the demonic Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld nexus, but apparently collective legitimate anti-terrorism measures designed to thwart killers, and by agreement, after years of observance, of great utility in keeping us safe the last eight years…

And I guess as well that the good old days of supposedly flushed Korans in Guantánamo and Omar the poor liberationist renditioned to Cairo are over. We are now in the age of a sober and judicious President Obama who circumspectly, if reluctantly and in anguish at the high cost, does what is necessary to keep us safe.

And we won’t see a brave young liberal senator, Obama-like, barnstorming the Iowa precincts blasting a presidency for trampling our values with the shame of Guantánamo, wiretaps, intercepts, renditions, military tribunals, Predators, Iraq, etc. That motif just dissolved — or rather, it never really existed.

It short, all the fury, the vicious slander, the self-righteous outbursts, the impassioned speeches from the floor, the “I accuse” op-eds by the usual moralistic pundits — all that turned out to be solely about politics, nothing more.

Hanson characteristically states the case plainly, but he’s far too polite. False accusation is evil. False accusation from those tasked with running the country, aimed at good and competent men, for the purpose of gaining political power for themselves, with complete disregard for the welfare of the nation — they’re fortunate they’re not being tarred, feathered, and ridden out of Washington on a rail, but that’s no less than what they deserve. And in the wake of their rank dishonesty, millions of unthinking drones within the Democratic party will go the rest of their lives thinking of the Bush years as battles furiously fought to protect their rights from ravagement by the dastardly Bush Crime Family, and the Obama years as years of restored sanity and safety, without once recognizing that both metaphors refer to the same set of policies.

Obama’s real agenda is economic and social. He cares about turning the United States into a Worker’s Paradise and a bastion of True Justice, as defined by world Marxism. He wants to redistribute income, capital, and opportunity to make America fair; he wants to force us all to drive smaller cars, use alternative energy sources, and produce less in order to save the planet; he wants to liberate all Americans from the iron-fisted tyranny of old-world morals; he wants all industry under the thumb of government so they cannot steal from the people; all as defined by world Marxism. (Translation: He wants to tax the productive and give their money to the unproductive, he wants to adopt the full socialism that the rest of the world rejected as a failure twenty years ago, he wants to institute unnecessary and scientifically irrelevant controls on harmless gases, he wants to legalize every possible social distortion, and he wants to prevent any businessman from actually making money.)

But he doesn’t care all that much about foreign policy, except that he wants to apologize for how arrogant we’ve all been and stop our interfering with the advance of World Socialism. The reality of the fact that America has been attacked, and will be attacked again if we’re not vigilant, is an incidental reality that cannot be obscured by his preconceived notions of A Just America. Consequently, his foreign policy so far has been a quick and red-faced reversal of every article of faith in the left’s War on Terror dogma. We now know that the Bush administration was thoughtful, foresightful, and legally correct on virtually everything they did to protect America, and that the Obama administration has quietly admitted that everything they said about his policy was either politically-motivated lie, or vicious ignorance of the facts.

The good news is that the safeguards developed by the Bush administration will not vanish overnight; we’ll remain somewhat safe for a while. The bad news is that they’re doing it grudgingly, hoping they can gradually convert us back to our 9/10 strategy of prosecuting terrorists as though they were simple criminals, and not an attacking army.

They will never admit what they did, but it behooves us to remind our adversaries every time it comes up that their entire campaign of slander against the Bush administration was an evil game, and that when offered the chance to repudiate his decisions, they meekly adopted every one.

A tip of the blogger hat to Michelle Malkin, who declares “For now, the adults have prevailed.”

02/18/2009 (8:12 pm)

The President, a Chimp? Say It Ain't So… (Updated)

In the “Could they possibly become a greater parody of themselves?” department, Democrats in the news and blogging business are going berserk over a cartoon published in the New York Post today in the wake of Monday’s report of a rabid chimpanzee attacking a woman in Stamford, Ct. The cartoon shows two policemen who have just shot the chimp dead (which is what actually happened in the Stamford incident) saying “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”


Hot Air catches Chris Matthews giving Congressman Gregory Meeks (D, NY) air time to slam that race card down hard. “Offensive.” “Horrific.” “What were they thinking?” Asks Matthews of his conservative Fall Guy, Rep. Dan Lungren (R, CA,) “Is the New York Post calling the President of the United States a chimp???” Huffpo, in an otherwise careful piece, cites Rev. Al Sharpton’s outrage.

I think Matthews is right on target, and it’s outrageous beyond belief. Can you imagine anybody with the disrespect, the incivility, the unmitigated dearth of humanity to call the President of the United States a chimp???




Jonathan Chait at the New Republic, to his credit, tries to quell the embarrassing nonsense, observing “sometimes a monkey is just a monkey.” But it’s too late. The hypocrisy is already out of the bag…

I can imagine some leftie objecting that “chimp” has historically been used to denote “African American,” so the reference is especially offensive (even though the cartoon recounts an actual, current news event, and even though the President did not write the stimulus bill, and even though the cartoon chimp does not look a thing like the President, and even though a million and a half references on the ‘net equate “chimpy” and “bush” in the same article.) Fine. Take another look at the Google graphic, above. Five million seven hundred thousand uses of the word “chimp” on the Internet. Think they should all be pulled?

UPDATE: The New York Post yesterday published a carefully-worded apology of which I completely approve. The apology went like this:

It was meant to mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill.


But it has been taken as something else – as a depiction of President Obama, as a thinly veiled expression of racism.

This most certainly was not its intent; to those who were offended by the image, we apologize.

However, there are some in the media and in public life who have had differences with The Post in the past – and they see the incident as an opportunity for payback.

To them, no apology is due.

Sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon – even as the opportunists seek to make it something else.

The dishonest press trumpeted that the Post had published an apology, failing utterly to distinguish between the apology to the dupes too naive to recognize that they were being played, and the absence of an apology to the partisan flacks who tried their best to make something out of nothing. They had to imagine they won, you see, but they didn’t. It’s long past due, and it’s beginning to occur: sensible people are pushing back against the race-mongering control freaks, and refusing to be whipped around by their faux outrage. Bravo, sez me.

02/05/2009 (9:52 am)

Hypocrisy Fest Over Cheney Interview (Updated)

Leftist blogs are absolutely outdoing each other to see which can spout the most outrageous hypocrisy in the wake of Politico’s 90-minute interview with Vice President Dick Cheney. The reactions were immediate, vitriolic, unhinged, and utterly devoid of even the tiniest self-reflection.

Politico reporters Allen, Harris, and Vandehei apparently asked Cheney questions regarding the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism policies, particularly focusing on detention and interrogations. I say “apparently asked” because none of the reports contain any of the questions; they simply report what Cheney said. Even Politico’s audio clip of the interview has the questions edited out. This becomes important when we consider the hysterical criticisms launched in Vice President Cheney’s direction yesterday.

The criticisms fall into two, predictable categories:

1) Cheney is fear-mongering!

Winners in this category include Think Progress, which complained that “Cheney displayed a knack for trying to scare Americans into allowing him to have his way,” and TalkLeft, which remarked that “…Cheney’s generic and self-serving fear-mongering is pathetic.”

Here’s what they’re complaining about:

Cheney said “the ultimate threat to the country” is “a 9/11-type event where the terrorists are armed with something much more dangerous than an airline ticket and a box cutter – a nuclear weapon or a biological agent of some kind” that is deployed in the middle of an American city.

“That’s the one that would involve the deaths of perhaps hundreds of thousands of people, and the one you have to spend a hell of a lot of time guarding against,” he said.

“I think there’s a high probability of such an attempt. Whether or not they can pull it off depends whether or not we keep in place policies that have allowed us to defeat all further attempts, since 9/11, to launch mass-casualty attacks against the United States.”

I’m genuinely curious about the reaction here. I would have thought that a blind pig leaning on a mechanical typewriter could accurately predict that terrorists are going to “make the attempt” to attack the US with WMDs at some point in the future. This sounds uncontroversial to me. I thought this was commonly understood. The Jordan truck bomb plot in 2004 was just such an attempt (albeit attacking Jordan, not the US.) A year ago, the LA Times quoted “current and former US Intelligence officials” assessing that al Qaeda is attempting such an attack. The Christian Science Monitor called such an attempt inevitable back in 2003. A Congressional Committee report published late in 2008 agreed. Several movies and TV shows have been made on this premise. Just about everybody believes it.

So, why is it so outrageous for Dick Cheney to say so, and to defend his administration’s approach to preventing it? What do they expect him to say when asked about it? “Now that I’m out of office, I freely admit that my policies were useless, and really any policy would have done just as well?” No doubt the deranged lib-monkeys believe he ought to say something like this, but why should anybody sane expect it? These folks seem never to have heard of Occam’s Razor: the explanation that he actually believes what he says explains his position perfectly well, so why do they need insane conspiracy theories to explain it?

The simple fact is, it’s fear-mongering to disagree with the left. That’s their definition. How dare we suggest that their bad policies may produce bad results?

2) Cheney violated a tradition of civility! He has no class!

The second most common complaint was that there’s an unwritten rule of post-presidential civility that says that former Presidents don’t criticize sitting Presidents, and Cheney broke it. I nearly lost it when I read the first of these, and then I discovered that there were several. Kudos for over-the-top, breathless denunciation go to The Moderate Voice (a badly misnamed site) and Washington Monthly.

Their problem here is that if there ever was such a rule, the Clinton administration has long since shredded it and left it in small pieces on the floor. President Clinton criticized Bush’s “isolationist” foreign policy, his “racially divisive” economic policies, his deficit spending, his commutation of Scooter Libby’s sentence, his “ignoring” domestic issues, his Iraq policy, and his run-up to the Iraq war, in a string of unsolicited public denunciations ranging from 2002 to 2008. Vice President Al Gore also got in on the fun, even going to the point of famously (and laughably) declaring that President Bush “betrayed his country!” That’s just the high point; Gore also denounced Bush’s handling of intelligence documents, his environmental policies, his choice of CIA Director (this arguably during a Presidential bid, so it’s less of a violation IMHO,) his economic policies and civil liberties record, his alleged involvement in the Enron scandal and his middle east policies, his “lying” about Iraq, his tax cuts, his Afghanistan policy, his irresponsibility regarding climate change, even his faith for crying out loud (seriously, can you believe this?)

Oh, and by the way: when the lefties at Media Matters decided to comment on the practice, they did it by pointing out a handful of instances (mostly forgivable, but a few actually on the mark) where Bush 41 criticized Clinton.

So, where were these Protectors of the Tradition of Civil Discourse during the past 8 years? And why, suddenly, are we now supposed to resume the tradition, after they so heartily dismissed it; nay, ravaged and decimated it? Why is Cheney “tasteless” and “classless” while Clinton and Gore get a permanent pass? No doubt the chimpanzees will insist that Clinton and Gore were “correct” and speaking in “good conscience.” This is laughably untrue — they are neither correct, nor speaking in good conscience — but it’s also beside the point; either there’s a tradition of Presidential civility, or there is not. They can’t have it both ways, and given their performance of the last 8 years, it’s too late for them to ask for it back and be taken seriously.

Special mention goes to the entertainingly obtuse Mr. Alan Colmes, who attempted to pre-empt any defense of Cheney by citing conservatives’ reactions to Jimmy Carter’s tasteless rants against the Bush administration. “Let’s not forget how conservatives went bonkers after Jimmy Carter criticized the Bush administration,” Colmes snarked. “Will they hold Cheney to the same standard?”

I did not watch Hannity and Colmes regularly — I only pay for basic cable TV in order to get broadband internet access — but when I had the pleasure, I always felt sorry for Colmes, because I thought he was forced by the structure of the show to come up with unsound comparisons to balance the unrelenting incivility of the leftist Shriek Machine. It turns out I was being too generous; the current topic suggests he really does lack the capacity to assess analogies accurately. The complaint about Carter was not just the sheer, outlandish vitriol of his comments (Bush was “the worst President in history” and “reversed America’s basic values,” according to Carter,) but the violation of a much more serious and longer-standing tradition of public decorum: he used the occasion of Coretta Scott King’s funeral to launch his completely unsolicited tirade — which he delivered in the presence of three other Presidents.

By contrast to every instance I’ve mentioned so far, but particularly by contrast to Colmes’ instance, this unspeakable incivility of Vice President Cheney’s was solicited. Politico asked to interview him. Cheney was not seeking notoriety; they sought him out. And then, they asked him a bunch of questions regarding the reasons for his policy choices regarding terrorism. All he was doing was answering questions. But this is some stark, unprecedented violation of long-standing rules, it is. Leftists are insane.

Perhaps what’s new here is reporters seeking out a recently retired Vice President and asking him point-blank what he thinks of the policies that are replacing his own. None of the blog responses reflected on this possibility.

Interestingly, all the criticism misses one of the starkest departures from past behavior that we’ve seen. Remember Bill Clinton’s histrionics as he left the White House, buying a mansion in New York, taking furniture from the White House, announcing his Presidential Library? Cheney’s conduct is the opposite of Clinton’s rooster dance:

If Cheney’s language was dramatic, the setting for the comments was almost bizarrely pedestrian. His office is in a non-descript suburban office building in McLean, Va., in a suite that could just as easily house a dental clinic. The office is across the hall from a quick-copy store. The door is marked by nothing except a paper sign, held up by tape, saying the unit is occupied by the General Services Administration…

After leaving office, Cheney and his wife, Lynne, went first to his home in Wyoming, then returned to Washington to enjoy their grandchildren. He’s working on a book about his career, which has included stints as a House member, White House chief of staff and secretary of Defense.

Once again, leftists paint a picture of power-mad, vicious, opulence-obsessed Republicans and proletarian Democrats, but the facts illustrate that their image is inverted. It’s the Democrats who grasp after power and opulence, and the Republicans who represent ordinary decency.

UPDATE: Speaking of fear-mongering, Michelle Malkin notes that President Obama has resorted to it in response to the fact that he’s losing the message war over the Wreck Our Economy Act, often mistakenly referred to as the stimulus bill.

02/03/2009 (7:25 am)

An Indicator

News reports last week confirmed that then-President-elect Barack Obama sent foreign policy advisors to Iran and Syria before the inauguration. In fact, Al Arabiya News confirms that he began discussions with them before he was elected President.

This constitutes a felony violation of the Logan Act, which reads:

§ 953. Private correspondence with foreign governments.

Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

This section shall not abridge the right of a citizen to apply himself, or his agent, to any foreign government, or the agents thereof, for redress of any injury which he may have sustained from such government or any of its agents or subjects.

1 Stat. 613, January 30, 1799, codified at 18 U.S.C. § 953 (2004).

I bring it up because in discussions with leftists over the past few months regarding their intent to prosecute President Bush and Vice President Cheney for their interrogation policy, they answered a number of my objections by rhetorically resorting to the vital importance of the rule of law. The implication was that even if the President was morally justified in behaving as he did — even if their interrogation policies resulted in information that saved American lives, and even if his policies were carried out with appropriate restraint and oversight — we must prosecute because law, in and of itself, is just that important.

So, this is for them, and I hope they’re reading. If the rule of law, in and of itself, is sufficient basis for pursuing a prosecution, they will — reluctantly, of course — call for an investigation and eventual prosecution of Barack Obama for violations of the Logan Act. It will be an indicator of whether they genuinely believe that the rule of law is truly so vital, or whether their invocation of it was just another instance of “principled” liberals discovering their principles only so long as it gives them rhetorical advantage.

I’ve got my bets placed already. Pardon me while I spit.

H/T to Ace of Spades HQ.

12/28/2008 (7:47 pm)

Harsh Interrogation

An exchange that began on 12/17 or so with a progressive blogger has had me tied up with the question of whether, and how, harsh interrogation of prisoners is justified in the ongoing war on terror. There’s a lengthy discussion attached to the post entitled “Those Who Make the Hard Decisions.” I’m recounting here the final argument of that discussion, making the case that the government’s choices have been responsible and properly within the bounds of moral behavior.

Two articles are necessary to understand this part of the discussion. The first is an outstanding but occasionally snarky analysis of the ambiguity attached to deciding which interrogation techniques are appropriate and which are not, by a professor (he does not say what subject he professes) who describes himself as a liberal Democrat. I reproduce the core of his argument in my own words, but his discussion is worth reviewing.

The second recounts two instances of harsh interrogation, one by a German Police Chief who afterwards got tried by the European Court of Human Rights on a torture complaint, the other requested by CIA interrogators at Guantanamo Bay but denied by higher-ups. One important thing to notice in the article is the fact that the German policeman, while convicted on a lesser charge of “inhuman treatment,” was not punished by the Court. The fact that he applied a rough tactic to obtain in seconds the whereabouts of a boy’s body from a kidnapper who had been lying to the police for hours under less stressful questioning, apparently convinced the Court that his behavior was not the sort of thing they wanted to punish. Another important feature is the detail about the formal categories of harshness in the US’ interrogation regimen at Guantanamo, even as early as 2002. These categories will play a role in the argument, below.

When we speak of illegal acts that are immoral by their very nature, we’re talking of things that are usually pretty clearly defined. Murder, for example, is relatively simple (but still not without it’s gray areas.) The act in question is deliberate killing. The victim is either dead, or not. The person killing the victim either has a legal right to do so, or not. Most of the disputable areas can be settled by clear findings of fact.

The same is true of theft. The act in question is taking possession or ownership of an item. Either the person takes possession, or he does not. He either has a right to possession, or he does not. There are gray areas, but the act can be clearly defined, and usually clear findings of fact settle the gray areas.

When leftists speak of US interrogation techniques, they invariably use the term “torture.” Torture is not an act like murder or theft, and in fact is not even the subject of the discussion; it’s a red herring. There is such a thing as deliberate infliction of pain on, say, kidnap victims, for the sake of pain or entertainment. The act of deliberately detaining someone and causing them pain for pain’s sake is certainly torture, and is certainly illegal. Inasmuch as US military personnel practice such things (as occurred at Abu Graib,) they are prosecutable, and ought to be. I will not defend such behavior; it is indefensible.

However, most of what’s being discussed with respect to US detention of prisoners has nothing to do with such excesses. The act we’re talking about is “interrogation,” not “torture.” There is simply no question that interrogation is legal; it is. It’s also necessary. Nobody disputes this. There is a valid discussion to be held regarding what techniques are appropriate for interrogation, and in what circumstances. To speak of “torture,” in this context, does nothing but obscure the relevant questions — which is why leftists do it. People who speak of “torture” are usually attempting to co-opt reasonable debate by using emotionally-charged language, which is the opposite of sound reasoning. Calling this a discussion about “torture” actually commits the fallacy called “poisoning the well,” since much torture has nothing to do with interrogation, and most interrogation has nothing to do with torture.

To understand the issue at hand, one should imagine making a scale of interrogation techniques in order to decide which are appropriate and which are not. We can start at “1” with seating the detainee in a comfy chair with a glass of scotch, and asking him sly questions. Something like chopping off a foot and threatening to chop off the other if the victim won’t talk lands somewhere near 90; we’ll call beating to death 100.

Now, let’s draw an arbitrary point in the middle — say, 50 — and say that higher numbers are immoral, and lower numbers are not. The reasonable question to ask is, what act would we call “49” on this scale? No, saying “Whatever you think, waterboarding is 65 and immoral” begs the question, and the people who jump to this are deliberately trying to avoid the discussion. What, precisely, constitutes 49, and what constitutes 51, and what’s the difference? The ambiguity of the problem becomes immediately apparent to the objective observer when they consider such questions. Clearly, there’s an increasing continuum in the direction of harshness, and at some point somebody has to draw an arbitrary line and say “This is far enough.” The continuum might pass through seating the prisoner on a hard chair facing a bank of bright lights, to denying him water for two hours, to making him stand for four hours, to slapping his stomach with an open palm, to shouting dire threats into his face, to extended periods in a cold, wet room, and so on. Somebody has to decide which acts are more harsh than which; the order, like the line which constitutes the harshest permissible tactic, is arbitrary.

International treaties do make an attempt to define where these marks are, but they’re necessarily vague, using phrases like “cruel, inhuman, or degrading” to describe prohibited treatment. It’s frequently up to the court to decide whether a particular act fits the category. Moreover, the recent German case mentioned at the top of the article illustrates that there are other factors that can affect the criteria. For instance, the urgency of the situation changes the equation; techniques that are higher up the “improper interrogation” scale become more acceptable when, say, a kidnapped child’s life might be in the balance, as in the German case. Also, the importance of what’s being saved affects the equation; more violent techniques that would not be appropriate when attempting to find, say, some Wall Street broker’s secret bank account, become more appropriate if there’s a plot to murder tens of thousands of people. The fact that waterboarding probably prevented a 9/11-style attack on the Library Tower in Los Angeles obviously mitigates whatever might be said about the barbarity of waterboarding.

There are good examples of attempts to identify which acts an interrogator might use fall into which spot on the scale. One such example exists in the CIA’s interrogation regimen that they’re using on terrorists. The linked article illustrates a case where Category I and II acts are permitted, but Category III acts require special approval — and are denied. The scale that they’ve implemented traverses a whole range of increasingly rough tactics, and comes complete with levels of oversight and responsibility; the higher on the “hard interrogation” scale, the greater the degree of oversight.

The existence of the hierarchy and the oversight, as well as the clear record of a discussion within the current administration to answer the question posed by CIA interrogation experts, “What are we permitted to do, and what are we forbidden?” makes it clear that the administration has been thoroughly responsible regarding this topic, attempting to devise a balanced system that protects the rights of the prisoners but permits more stringent interrogations when demanded by the circumstances. The fact that the most extreme tactics, like waterboarding, have only been used on a few occasions demonstrates that the system works to limit harsh treatment, and testifies to a good-faith effort to remain within the bounds of humanity. The administration, far from deserving condemnation and prosecution, should be commended for holding to high standards while successfully protecting the nation.

In order to be cogent in their criticism, critics of the Bush administration must believe that they drew the line between acceptable and unacceptable questioning in the wrong place. It is entirely fair to ask them where they, the critics, believe the line should have been drawn, and then to make them explain in legal and moral terms the difference between their endpoint (let’s say, 42 on our 1-100 scale) and the CIA’s endpoint (say, 55). Of course, they seldom answer such questions, as many of them have never considered the matter as a continuum of increasingly harsh treatments, some of which are acceptable and some not.

On the contrary, they’re actually claiming something a lot more unbelievable than just “They drew the line in the wrong place.” Not only do they think the line was drawn in the wrong place, they believe there exists an absolute moral precipice between where they, the critics, would draw the line and where Cheney & Co draw it. They think that at their safe 42, they’re strolling in moral purity, earning the kudos of the moral universe, but that somewhere between that point and 55, Cheney has fallen off an immense cliff, from moral purity into the deepest depths of degradation so obviously immoral that nations cannot tolerate the very thought of it. Once we’ve taken pejorative terms like “torture” out of the picture and explained the progressive scale of interrogation we’re examining, the claim simply becomes a joke; they can’t possibly be serious, no such precipice exists. Some harsh acts are permitted, others forbidden, but the line between them is more or less arbitrary, and the differences are differences only of degree. And if the cowards among them retreat their line to an obviously safe spot — like, anything beyond the Comfy Chair and the glass of scotch is over the cliff — we snort and put them on “ignore”; again, they can’t possibly be serious, and no nation on the planet adheres to such a standard, nor should they.

What’s obvious here is that they’re not engaging in sound thinking at all, but playing some sort of game. The Back Talk blog that I linked to at the top of this article calls their position “moral exhibitionism,” asserting that they’re simply trying to buttress their own egos by asserting moral superiority. Tammy Bruce makes a similar diagnosis, calling these folks “malignant narcissists.” For many, I think, that’s all it is — they’re infants in adult bodies, playing at “I’m better than you, nyah nyah.”

But for others, it’s something a lot more sinister. These began a process about 8 years ago that said this: “The Republicans have made our Democratic President look like a moral cretin. We have to make theirs look worse.” I recall dozens of progressives saying precisely that, in writing (ignoring the simple fact that it was the Democratic President who made himself look like a moral cretin, and the Republicans were simply doing their jobs.) The process has proceeded without ceasing for the last 8 years, with a clear intent to criminalize any normal aspect of governance that could possibly be made to look criminal. Phrases like “a secret legal cabal” to describe the President’s ordinary consultation with his private attorney makes it clear that that’s what’s being done. This is not analysis, nor principled opposition (though such opposition is possible and does exist). The fact is that the Democrats in Congress were briefed more than 30 times on the interrogation regimen, and most of them approved it heartily; their moral preening on the subject today is rank hypocrisy, and an exercise in political theater aimed at fooling the voting population into voting Democrat. It’s the rot at the heart of the tree of liberty. Such people are dangerous. This, and not Cheney’s responsible governance, is an evil worth opposing.

10/16/2008 (1:00 pm)

Registration Fraud and the Decline of the West

The story about ACORN is getting at least 1/2 of the attention it deserves in the press, which is truly remarkable this election season. There’s clearly a pattern of fraud that assaults the confidence of the public in the voting process and raises the likelihood of widespread fraud by Democrats. Barack Obama’s ties to the organization run very deep indeed, and not only did he funnel $800,000 of precious campaign funds to the organization, he clearly attempted to hide the fact that he was doing it, and hide it in a manner that was fraudulent. This fact by itself gives the lie to claims that ACORN’s activities have no impact on the election, to Obama’s claim that he has no meaningful connection to the organization, and to Obama’s implication of innocence. Clearly Obama thinks ACORN is pivotal to his campaign, and knows that his connection to their activism makes both them and him look bad.

The part of the story that’s missing, though, is the part that explains why they’re doing it. No, it’s not just that Democrats historically cheat, though that’s actually true. So do Republicans, though not usually at the same level or in the same numbers. It’s funny, in a way, that there’s a certain level of corruption that’s going to appear in any democratic system, but that’s not really a symptom of a corrupted system, just of original sin. Anything run by humans will be tainted at some point by corruption; that’s just who we are. It is vital that we not excuse it, and that we prosecute it diligently and patiently, lest it get hold of the system and destroy it, but its presence does not mean the whole system is going to hell.

What we’re seeing this year, however, is something worse. What we’re seeing is the outworking of the belief by a large fraction of the electorate that the system cannot protect their rights, and that they must take the system down in order to protect their safety. We’re seeing it from lunatics; their fears are illusions, and their rights are actually secure. However, because they’re lunatics, they cannot be convinced that they’re safe. No evidence will penetrate their fears. They’re taking their fears and using them to justify a pattern of destruction that is demolishing the system that protects us all.

Progressives in America genuinely believe, in the core of their souls, that the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections were stolen. There’s no evidence of either, of course. Democrats actually took their claims of fraud in Florida into federal court in 2000, and after hearing their presentation of the facts demonstrating this alleged fraud, Judge Sanders Sauls of the Leon County Circuit Court in Florida did not even require the Republican party to offer a defense; there were simply no facts in evidence suggesting any fraud at all. There were other, more relevant parts of the decision (which eventually made it to the US Supreme Court,) but that part was clear, and court-tested: there was no evidence of fraud.

This is doubly true for the 2004 election, in which Progressives claim that the introduction into the state of Ohio of electronic voting machines manufactured by Diebold precipitated a state-wide conspiracy in which Republicans defrauded the electorate and stole the election. Never mind that their sole reason for claiming the machines were the source of fraud is that the President of Diebold registered Republican, and that exit polls didn’t match voting results. Never mind that it’s several orders of magnitude simpler to rig exit poll results than it is to rig voting machines throughout an entire state. Never mind that there is not a single, plausible claim of a machine actually being tampered with. Never mind that none of the Diebold machines were even used in the state of Ohio that year. They are absolutely certain Republicans stole the election by rigging Diebold voting machines, and cannot be dissuaded from it. They also complain of long lines and broken machines at polling places, an artifact of a new system and unexpectedly large turnout among black voters; they delusionally blame Republicans for the difficulties in heavily Democratic areas, and interpret Republican attempts to see fair voting laws enforced as attempts to intimidate voters. They lost, and they blame illusory frauds.

This year, apparently, they decided they would steal Ohio back. The only difference is, their frauds are real, not imaginary.

It starts with Jennifer Brunner, who ran for Secretary of State back in 2006 apparently with the goal of affecting the outcome of the 2008 election for the Democrats. Her first actions in office were attempts to bully Republicans out of county election mechanisms, and replace them with Democrats. Then she tried to raise an alarm about the state’s voting machines, in a report that even participants criticized as relying on “over-hyped leaps of logic.” Then she unlawfully attempted to disqualify Republican absentee ballots for failing to check a box that was simply advisory. Then she unlawfully changed the rules for voter registration to allow individuals to vote on the same day they register, a move that’s clearly an opportunity for fraud. Then Ohio Democrats prevented Republican poll watchers from entering the polling area. Now she’s doing her best to prevent local voter registration boards from weeding out hundreds of thousands of improper voter registrations gathered by leftist activists, many of them illegal. (Freedom’s Right has a pretty complete run-down of Brunner’s activities.) Plus, we’re discovering broad-based Progressive activism to register out-of-state voters in Ohio.

It’s clear from their own web sites that they feel this sort of activism is necessary to counteract fraud and intimidation by Republicans — fraud and intimidation that simply do not exist. Here are a couple of lines from the web site of Vote Today Ohio, the Progressive’s organized drive to take advantage of Brunner’s illegal suspension of Ohio’s voter registration laws:

Why is this important? Because early voters will avoid long lines, broken machines, and GOP intimidation that disenfranchised hundreds of thousands of Ohioans in 2004. Every early voter reduces the strain on polling places on Election Day, and that means more Obama votes get counted.

We’re looking for volunteers to help us lock down Obama votes before they can be lost to long lines, broken machines and GOP tampering on Election Day.

There it is; they’re going to take advantage of an illegal window of opportunity to prevent imaginary illegalities by Republicans. Bad people imagine wrong has been done to them, a typical reaction of an infant having its will frustrated; they respond by doing a similar but very real wrong against the people they think wronged them. Vengeance is bad even when it’s based on real wrongs; it’s an order of magnitude worse when it’s prompted by delusions. It leads to the demolition of society.

Voter fraud = the decline of the West? Getting a little depressive, aren’t we?

No, I don’t think so. It’s not that a single, stolen election is going to end Western civilization. It’s that the reason we’re seeing so much fraud this year epitomizes the overall decline of the culture, and illustrates how we’re going to go the way of all civilizations. This is some of the same line of thinking that produced The Screeching Inversion back in February, only this goes farther. It illustrates why moonbattery is not just funny, not just dangerous, but ultimately fatal to a civilization.

The process goes like this, in the broadest terms:

  • Incorrect ideas about human behavior take root in the culture.
  • Parents believe these ideas and stop teaching their children the core virtues of the culture.
  • The children grow up unrestrained and incapable of questioning themselves or of allowing themselves to be crossed.
  • The emotionally and morally stunted adults don’t get what they want, and blame others for it.
  • They decide to get what they want by any means necessary, and to take revenge on those who wronged them.
  • Systems of maintaining order break down, tyrants rise to restore order, and civilization crumbles.

There are lots of other factors, involving declining patterns of education, corruption in government and business, health considerations, laziness, world politics, etc., but those are the core steps we’re seeing in practice just now. In this manner, the failure to teach consistent morals leads ultimately to the collapse of civilization and the loss of liberty, prosperity, and culture. It takes hundreds of years for the process to work completely, but we seem to be near the end of a 400-year trajectory that will leave the West in ruin and poverty.

If the Progressives manage to steal Ohio and the election, their Favorite Son as President seems likely to suspend fundamental liberties and attempt to ensure an ongoing, unassailable Progressive majority. If this occurs, and with the recent moves by Western governments to nationalize the banking system, we can expect reactions from libertarians among us that will either lead to secession or civil war. I personally favor secession, since I don’t believe the US Constitution is suitable to managing two, competing moral systems in a single political system; it was written assuming that all sides in the body politic at least share a common moral system, which was the case when it was written but is no longer. I would like to see Red American and Blue America separate into two nations, however difficult that may be to accomplish.

09/05/2008 (5:05 pm)

Biden Verifies the Witch Hunt

Joe Biden was reported by the UK Guardian to have said that he intends to prosecute the Bush administration when he takes office. The video is below. Listen to it carefully:

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air thinks there’s nothing here to get agitated about; he observes that what Biden says is correct, that nobody, not even the President, is above the law. I agree with that particular statement, but I disagree with Morrissey otherwise. There’s a great deal here to get agitated about.

Recall Biden’s comment in the video that Waxman, Conyers, and Leahy are gathering documents and “going through everything with a fine-tooth comb.” Which President’s administration suffered this sort of scrutiny without some prior, clear indication of criminal activity? Which suffered it even with some indication of criminal activity? Where, exactly, does Biden evince a proper role of Congress to carefully scrutinize millions of documents looking, hoping for some indication that a crime has been committed?

This is not legitimate review, no matter how carefully Biden attempts to wrap it in non-committal language. This is a witch hunt. It’s obsessive. It’s deranged. And, even if it’s not strictly unconstitutional, every signer of our Constitution would regard it as gross dereliction of duty on the part of Congress.

We’ve seen this before from the Democrats. Back in the 1990s, Newt Gingrich correctly identified House Speaker Jim Wright’s (D, Tx) illegal avoidance of gift and contribution restrictions (the sort that are intended to prevent bribery); the ensuing ethics complaint forced Wright to resign from the House. Then Gingrich became Speaker in 1994 when the Republicans won the majority in the House. David Bonior (D, MI) proceeded to file 76 separate ethics complaints against Gingrich over the next 2 years. All but one were found by the Ethics Committee to be without merit; on the one remaining issue, they fined Gingrich $300,000 because a single document prepared by his attorney had an inaccurate statement about a college class he’d taught. The complaint was that he’d allegedly violated finance rules by not declaring as a campaign contribution remuneration he received for teaching the course. Three years later, the IRS ruled that no violation of the law had occurred, so in actual fact, all 76 charges were without merit. This was a clear and deeply troubling abuse of government power by Democrats. It is similar to the current irrational rage against Bush in that like the assault on Gingrich, the current rage follows a Democratic presidency that was racked by genuine scandals and which was properly and appropriately investigated by Congress, and like the assault on Gingrich, this assault turns proper governmental oversight mechanisms into weapons for partisan oppression.

Apparently Democrats think they’re entitled to take tit for tat, even when their own are committing real crimes and their opponents are not.

Aside from missing the malignancy of the effort, though, Morrissey nails it with this:

…Democrats have controlled Congress for almost two years now, and they have conducted investigations into these allegations. What have they found? Nothing. The 110th Congress has abdicated all of its other responsibilities to focus on witch hunts, hoping to find a Holy Grail of Bush Derangement Syndrome. Despite wasting thousands of hours and millions of dollars, they’ve come up with a big nothingburger.

The real outrage here is either that the Democrats are so deep into the tinfoil hat brigade, or that they are so incompetent. Neither of those options speak well to keeping them in leadership roles.

Some Republican operative needs to calculate the amount of money wasted on these efforts, since the normal Democratic Party response to any investigation of real crimes by Republicans is a tally of how much it cost — as though there’s a price tag on honest government. But that’s a minor point.

The major point is that the Democrats have no regard for the rule of law. There’s been plenty of oversight, plenty of litigation, plenty of properly-formed legal complaints against what Democrats regard as violations of the Constitution. They’ve lost just about all of them, though they’ve won some. The point is, they’ve used the system that’s designed to exercise checks and balances, but that does not satisfy them. They want more.

I wrote earlier that this could eventually constitute a cause for civil war. If the Democratic party is so deranged that they think it’s appropriate to dig through literally millions of documents hoping to find some grounds for prosecution, which Republican politician will ever be safe?

08/08/2008 (4:37 pm)

Cause for Civil War

Byron York on Wednesday wrote about an interview he noticed from this year’s Netroots Nation convention last month in Austin, TX. David Kurtz from leftist blog Talking Points Memo interviewed Dahlia Lithwick of Slate.com concerning a serious discussion that had taken place at the conference about how to hold the Bush administration accountable for “war crimes” and “violations of the law.”

I’ve embedded the YouTube video of the interview, but you might not want to watch it. Personally, I couldn’t get through any 2 minutes of it without pausing it and having to leave the room to go vent somewhere. It’s about 10 minutes long. Two intelligent-sounding individuals are discussing calmly how to go about prosecuting the Bush administration for the heinous act of carefully examining the law and attempting to pursue sound defense policy without violating it. Lithwick actually claimed that the most pernicious aspect of the Bush administration’s behavior was how they deliberately chose locations for foreign combatants that were outside the jurisdictions of US courts, and appointed District and Circuit Court judges who were friendly to their interpretation of the law, as though this was a prosecutable war crime. How this differs from the behavior of Democrats (discounting for the moment the clear violations of law under Democratic leadership, like the 1996 campaign finance scandal) is beyond me. And then they discuss how the nation will be “unrecognizable” if McCain appoints two or three more judges like Scalia and Roberts, who actually believe that the Constitution’s authors meant precisely what they wrote.

This is just the tip of a very ugly iceberg that’s been floating into the harbor for a while now. The Left, if it gains power, seriously intends to prosecute the Bush administration for what amount to policy differences. Barack Obama actually stated his intent to at least consider doing so in an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News back in April, when he was still trying to outflank Hillary Clinton on the left. The American Thinker wrote about it a few months later, and quoted Obama at length, including this:

…one of the things we’ve got to figure out in our political culture generally is distinguishing between really dumb policies and policies that rise to the level of criminal activity.

Hey, I’ve actually said that I thought certain Democratic policies are “criminally stupid,” but I didn’t actually mean I wanted to prosecute them for it. Obama, however, means exactly what he says. Discussions here at The Blue Voice, here at Salon.com, and here at LegalSchnauzer all advocate prosecution of imagined wrongdoing, and the Lithwick interview tells us that they’re seriously discussing the options.

It’s not as though there have been no investigations during the Bush administration. The Left started hurling false accusations before Bush even took office, and has never stopped. They’ve investigated apparent links between the Bush administration and oil vendors in Texas, and found none. They’ve investigated pressure by the Bush administration to alter intelligence reports during the run-up to the Iraq war, and found none. They’ve investigated an alleged attempt to harm a private citizen by exposing his wife’s alleged covert status publicly, and found nothing (although one official was arrested for lying during the investigation). They’ve investigated alleged “lies” in the administration’s public argument for the Iraq war, and found that all statements conformed to the available intelligence. They’ve been investigating the perfectly legal firing of 8 US attorneys during the President’s 2nd term, and have found nothing but some low-level officials preferring to hire Republicans. They’ve been attempting to prove that Karl Rove orchestrated a witch hunt against the felony-convicted governor of Alabama, Don Siegelman, and found nothing. They even attempted to prove the President skipped the last few months of his Air Force Reserve tour 35 years ago, for cryin’ out loud — and got caught forging documents trying to prove it. When Nancy Pelosi took over leadership of the House of Representatives, the Democrats launched three hundred separate investigations into the Bush administration, resulting in the subpoenas of more than 1 million documents. Have you heard of any wrongdoing found? At all? (This is as opposed to the four serious investigations into the last Democratic administration in the White House, investigations having nothing to do with policy choices, wherein all four produced significant evidence of very real criminal activity.)

We already know the truth about the Bush administration; they have been scrupulous about attempting to conduct national defense aggressively while keeping the law in mind. They’ve pushed right up to what they consider the limits, and willingly stopped there. Where they could, they’ve actually accommodated the demands of their adversaries. There have been some instances of patronage jobs being handed out, which is disappointing but hardly surprising among politicians. The Bush administration has been the most corruption-free administration in my lifetime, bar none. It’s also been the most scrupulously examined.

But that’s not good enough for the “Progressives.” We’ve made jokes about Bush Derangement Syndrome, but this is no joke. This is Stalinista-style hearings, “Truth Panels,” aimed at making examples of those who dared violate Progessive orthodoxy. They cannot abide by the facts found by properly appointed agents of the law, so they will produce show trials with guaranteed results. How can we expect otherwise? The legally constituted inquiries that produced no evidence of criminal activity did not satisfy them; they know the Bush administration is criminal despite the flood of evidence to the contrary, and will not rest until a panel has produced that result.

A blogger named Jerry Pournelle foresees war as the inevitable response to such an attempt. He’s quoted by Instapundit (read the Instapundit post, Prof. Reynolds excerpts the only relevant comment from Pournelle’s meanderings.) The emphasis is mine:

Democrats seem to be drifting toward the concept of prosecution of former office holders by criminalizing policy differences. That’s a certain formula for civil war; perhaps not immediate, but inevitable. The absolute minimum requirement for democratic government is that the loser be willing to lose the election: that losing an election is not the loss of everything that matters. As soon as that assurance is gone, playing by the rules makes no sense at all.

Reynolds follows this with a comparison to the Roman Civil War, which is worth reading. Once the line of co-laboring under a common Constitution is crossed, there’s no saving the republic; there’s only survival, and attempting to reconstruct something workable after the fighting.

A comment by one J. E. Dyer after Commentary’s brief blurb about Byron York’s article makes my case succinctly. He concludes:

Anyone can declare that he perceives a “gray area,” but his perception should be no more actionable by government than another’s perception that someone he dislikes is a horse’s ass. Our constitutionally-appointed checks and balances have already kicked in on the Bush administration: Bush’s policies and executive actions have been the subjects of a special prosecutor, Congressional inquiries, and lawsuits. We have results from those processes. The fact that some partisans would have preferred different results doesn’t render any territory in this history “gray.”

The bottom line here is that the leftists who advocate a “truth commission” approach don’t like the outcome of due process of law, in the case of Bush’s executive. What they want is a do-over using a wholly unaccountable process from OUTSIDE the Constitution, one through which they can try to destroy people with accusation and innuendo, strung out in the public eye for as long as possible. They are behaving exactly like Bolshevik cadre, and they should be called out as such. There is no room in constitutional, rule-of-law government for hijacking the forms of government to perform Soviet-style purges, complete with show trials.

The most complete discussions I found were at American Power and Wolf Howling; you’ll find lots of links at both places to what the Leftists are up to. Jimmie at The Sundries Shack rounds us out with this observation:

I can almost guarantee you that if the Democrats take untrammeled control of the Federal Government, they will make Joseph McCarthy look like an elderly nun on Thorazine.

My reaction is, “They already have. What they’ll do next will do Stalin proud.”

Allow me to point once again to the sober reminder of our responsibility under our social and political contract to provide new guards for our future security if our form of government becomes destructive of our God-given liberties. We who understand the central importance of liberty of conscience cannot walk away from our responsibility to resist tyrants, even if the tyrants are our neighbors and speak our language. This responsibility is not going to go away, and we need to be ready to step up.

Progressives: is criminalizing policy differences worth the violence that will inevitably follow the attempt? Please be assured that I am serious; you will not be permitted to prosecute politicians who disagree with you without incurring violence.

07/18/2008 (11:40 am)

Must Be Projection

What exactly can be said about this:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called President Bush “a total failure” on Thursday, among the California Democrat’s harshest assessments to date of the president.

…in the light of this?

The percentage of voters who give Congress good or excellent ratings has fallen to single digits for the first time in Rasmussen Reports tracking history.

You have to give her some credit for cojones. If I had her approval ratings, the words “total failure” would never come out of my mouth for fear of boomerang effects.

I will permit no comment concerning whether the 68-year-old Madame Speaker should consider “cojones” a compliment.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

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