Addendum To Cheneyism

I keep hearing this notion repeated that, when we think about the Bush administration and torture we should consider the context. It was post-9/11. The country was under attack. We were at war etc. The basic idea seems to be that torture may be indefensible in normal times, but under pressure it's fine. Or better put, principles are something you cling to when they are convenient.

A political leader who blaming "context" for his bad decisions, is a quarterback blaming crowd noise for his five interceptions, or a writer blaming his fact-checkers for flubbing names.

They put your byline at the top for a reason, dude.

People are judged by what they do under pressure, not what they do at the company picnic. If being a leader was simply a matter of doing the right thing, when it's easy to do the right thing, then anyone could lead. Of course, they think they did the right thing. Which makes me wonder why they keep bringing up context.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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