Bush's Last Presser

A reader writes:

I watched it through twice.  It was extremely revealing. When discussing his "mistakes," Bush focused on whether to land his plane in Baton Rouge and the press coverage of Abu Ghraib.  So he understood his role not as a decision maker and allocator of resources, but as a television personality--a media interface.  That really has been his role, I think.  It suggests at minimum a superficiality about his job, a failure to connect to the deeper importance of policy.  Everything is understood in the Rovian terms of advancing an electoral agenda.  But then also the lack of compassion for victims--the mocking looks--it all suggested a frat boy arrogance to me.  This needs to be preserved for posterity.  Bush showed his true self.  And it was extremely ugly.

Bush also confessed, it seems to me, to torture. And he defended it as necessary. Cut through the euphemisms and legalisms and the meaning is clear:

Do you remember what it was like right after September the 11th around here? In press conferences, in opinion pieces and in stories that sometimes were news stories and sometimes opinion pieces, people were saying, "How come they didn't see it? How come they didn't connect the dots?"

Do you remember what the environment was like in Washington -- I do -- when people were hauled in front of Congress and members of Congress were asking questions about, "How come you didn't know this that or the other?"

And then we start putting, you know, policy in place -- legal policy in place to connect the dots, and all the sudden, people were saying, "How come you're connecting the dots?"

This is what happened. 9/11 occurred. Cheney and Bush decided that to get the intelligence they wanted and didn't have, they would start torturing prisoners for information. They told their legal people to provide legal defenses, however strained and bizarre, and talked themselves into believing that it wasn't torture. They set up a major torture camp in Gitmo and many smaller ones around the world; they told their military and CIA to take all the gloves off. They did this consciously and with clear pre-meditation. They stuck with their policy even after its essence was exposed so painfully at Abu Ghraib. They were in too deep to go back then. And they deeply believed that the constitution allowed the president unlimited powers in wartime - and that war time was now for ever. The Constitution, in Cheney views, empowers the presidency to permanent near-dictatorial status for the indefinite future. The dictatorial powers - unencumbered by no law and no treaty - extend to American citizens and on American soil.

This is what they believed. And this is what they did. It was and is illegal. And immoral. And deeply destructive of the need to garner reliable intelligence and to protect American soldiers from future torture at the hands of the enemy. And the dreadful truth is: Bush clearly had no qualms or conflict in this. But he won't own it. History must make him own it. And the rule of law should make him accountable.