Bush vs Powell and McCain


By chance I bumped into Senator John Warner last night at the fifth anniversary party for the Chris Matthews Show. I was able to go up and shake him warmly by the hand and thank him from the depth of my heart for protecting this country's honor. He replied quite simply: "It's just the right thing for the country." The sight of so many Republican senators and one former secretary of state finally standing up against the brutality and dishonor of this president's military detention policies is a sign of great hope. It turns out there is an opposition in this country - it's called what's left of the sane wing of the GOP. Slowly, real conservatives are speaking out loud what they have long said in private. The apparatchiks of the pro-torture blogosphere can vent, but it is hard to demonize the new opposition as "leftist" or "hysterical." Warner? McCain? Graham? Powell? These men who have served their country are somehow less reliable on matters of war than a man who never went to the war of his own generation and has bungled the two critical wars on his own watch? Please. These men are less serious about confronting terror than Dick Cheney, whose own record of commentary in Iraq would be dismissed as unhinged and absurd if he were a lowly blogger? Please. This should have happened long, long ago - before the explosion in spending, before the conflation of religious dogma with conservative politics, before the reckless indifference toward the immensely challenging task of occupying a foreign country.

But this is not over. There are rumors that if the president and Rove cannot use the torture issue to browbeat Democrats, they will use it to wage war on those few principled conservatives left in their own party. The president may veto a war-crimes bill that actually keeps war crimes illegal. He may still use the issue as a rallying cry for his base, as a way to help turnout in November. He will argue that only he has the cojones to waterboard a terrorist, and that therefore only he can keep America safe. Running on the president's prerogative to torture? Why not? There are no ethical boundaries that this president recognizes in political warfare, just as there are no ethical boundaries he will not cross in actual warfare. Here's the campaign theme:

"I just think John McCain is wrong on this. If we capture bin Laden tomorrow and we have to hold his head under water to find out when the next attack is going to happen, we ought to be able to do it."

This from Pete King, a man who appeased Irish terrorism for much of his political career. I've learned one thing about this administration these past few years: they are capable of pulling any lever, using any tactic, to keep the power they have so arrogantly abused. This is not over. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Addington, Haynes, Cambone, Rove: they're warming up.

(Photo: Daniel Ochodeolza/AP.)