It's there, all right, which makes Bush's ultimate decisions all the more maddening. You can see it in the rational attempts of people like Gordon R. England, the acting deputy secretary of defense, and Philip D. Zelikow, the counselor of the State Department. You see it in Condi Rice who knows that the legacy of Gitmo and Abu Ghraib - both direct consequences of Bush's decision to abandon Geneva rules - have severely damaged America's reputation and made winning the war of ideas infinitely harder. But ee come back to the central issue: the Cheney-Rumsfeld axis of brutal incompetence. An attempt to deal rationally with detained terror suspects was proposed by some last year, but the unhinged Rumsfeld blew one of his famous gaskets:

When the paper first circulated in the upper reaches of the administration, two of those officials said, it so angered Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that his aides gathered up copies of the document and had at least some of them shredded.

"It was not in step with the secretary of defense or the president," said one Defense Department official who, like many others, would discuss the internal deliberations only on condition of anonymity. "It was clear that Rumsfeld was very unhappy."

Then there's this astonishing quote from a senior Pentagon official, obviously worried about Captain Queeg:

"The problem fell for some period of time into the too-hard category," one senior administration official said. "It fell so far into the too-hard category that it was lost from view."

I guess the Iraq war also fell into that "too-hard" category. There's more:

The element of the new legislation that raised the sharpest criticism among legal scholars and human rights advocates last week was the scaling back of the habeas corpus right of terrorism suspects to challenge their detention in the federal courts. But in dozens of high-level meetings on detention policy, officials said, that provision was scarcely even discussed.

Habeas Schmabeas. The more we know, the more we find out that this administration is deeply dysfunctional, its members at war with each other, and headed by a weak, brittle, overwhelmed president unable to rally them to a common cause. In normal times, this would be distressing. In today's world, it's alarming.

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