… but, damn it’s hard, since the truth is as compartmentalized as the operations of a top-notch sleeper cell.

Last round comin’ up! Swallow hard!

John McCain Bends Over Again


The media have portrayed today’s Bush.McCain announcement as a big victory for the anti-torture contingent. On CNN’s Situation Room, Wolfie gushed:

Two former rivals who still butt heads from time to time now are on the same side in the push to ban torture. Just a short while ago, President Bush accepted Senator John McCain’s amendment to ban cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of terror suspects. The Bush White House had been resisting this moment for months.


Meanwhile, writes KRT, the “debate over McCain’s amendment had brought the defense bill to a standstill.”


Even True Majority sent me a happy message today:

We wanted to share the good news, in case you haven’t heard it yet: on Wednesday night the House of Representatives overwhelmingly supported Senator John McCain’s anti-torture amendment. The latest news reports say that as a result, President Bush may finally accept the torture ban later today.


Here’s why I think this is bullshit — and it’s hard to explain, at least for me, so bear with me.


First, it appears to me that McCain has again let himself be used in a highly publicized photo-op that served to make Bush come off like a rational, humane statesman who has affirmed what he’s phonily professed all along — that the U.S. doesn’t do torture — and that, as a great leader, he’s glad to confirm his stand alongside a politician who famously survived torture. “President Bush said he and McCain, R-Ariz., shared a common objective “to make it clear to the world that this government does not torture.” (Chicago Tribune)


(’08 watchers: Today’s love-in has compromised McCain’s future presidential aspirations by losing him his best, if fabulous, advantage: The gritty outsider role that he peddled in 2000. Of course, as you all know here, he caves in all the time to the top GOP dawgs, but still plays up the outsider’s gunslinger image every chance he gets.)

Superficially, the retort of Duncan Hunter — in a press conference immediately following Bush’s announcement — made Hunter sound like a loner hard-liner full of sour grapes and fantasies of waterboarding every real or wannabe jihadist on the planet:

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he would try to block the defense bill, which sets policy for the military, unless the White House gives him written assurance that the torture ban would not result in a reduction in intelligence-gathering … (KRT)


More importantly, Duncan’s press briefing made it appear that Bush had failed to bring Hunter on board before the McCain love-in, and that Bush had let Hunter dampen the White House’s unified message to Congress.


Wolf Blitzer remarked to CNN reporter Ed Henry:

Ed, this is highly unusual. We saw the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee in the Oval Office with John McCain and the president. Yet, a Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, he’s not there. Why didn’t they get him on board before a deal was announced? (Emphasis mine.)


Why indeed.


A White House flub? An oversight? A sign that Karl is losing his touch? Or was this an example of how the White House runs its bulldozer over anything in its way, disgruntled Republicans included?


But what if it was something else altogether? What if it was a stealth reassurance to the hardcore rightwing that Bush will play along — in public displays — with the McCain anti-torture message while also giving a behind-the-scenes wink and nod to the gang that will keep the same secret torture and gulag programs going?


Ed Henry, rather naively I think, asks Wolf:

Can he now, the president, get personally involved and try to push back on Duncan Hunter? In the past, Hunter has had the president and the vice president of the United States on his side. Now he no longer has the president on his side, Wolf.


Ed, they’re still in league with each other. Even though Hunter has made threats, and the agreement on the defense bill “[m]aybe [is] not a done deal at all.”

That’s right. Two Republican congressional sources now tell CNN that House Armed Services Chairman Duncan Hunter is threatening to block this deal. He would do that because is he chairman of the conference committee on the defense bill. He can technically refuse to circulate the conference report and not allow everyone else to sign the bill. (CNN transcript)


So, I predict it’ll go like this: There’ll be a dog and pony show with Hunter posturing, and Bush looking more and more statesman-like. The defense bill will pass with McCain’s amendment added. But then, with a wave of his hand — or even no signal at all because they already know he’s with the gulag and rendition goons — Bush will allow the continued detentions, torture, and gulags to go on and on.


After all, it’s so easy in this post-democratic era for a president to simply ignore law and to do so with impunity:

Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials. […]


[S]ome officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches. (New York Times, December 16, 2005)


Stretched, crossed constitutional limits? So what? We’re used to it now. The ACLU is shocked, but that’s — oh — it’s so typical, isn’t it. They’re always shocked.


And the same can be done with the little torture measure. Stretch, cross the lines. Once again, the ACLU — oh, and those other groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International — will bellow and howl. So typical.


McCain? Well, he’ll proudly point to his legislative achievement, knowing, however faintly and obscurely, deep in his heart of hearts that his deal with the devils has sent unknown numbers to the torture chambers he perhaps is finding it harder and harder to recall because the word torture has become for him a placard and very little, any longer, a memory. Bush? He’ll proudly point to his pronounced affirmation of his resolve to oppose torture, knowing nothing because he is incapable of knowing the depths of anguish and pain of other men. Duncan Hunter? He’ll fuss and spew a bit, comforted that all the while nothing’s changed, and knowing that the essential torture is going on just as before.


Steve Clemons smells something:

Torture Deal? Keep Your Powder Dry. . .Vice President Cheney’s Power May Be on the Rise Again


… I don’t trust Vice President Cheney on this front [the Senate/Bush torture deal] — and nervous rumors are leaking out of the White House and State Department that Vice President Cheney’s supposed “containment” by Bush was a ruse, or at least was just temporary.


Some are suggesting that Cheney and his people are back — and that he has even sent word out on one front that “diplomacy with North Korea will be suspended.” Rice may not yield to Cheney, but what is important to note is that some of those who thought that the Libby indictment and combination of bad news items crippling the White House had harmed Cheney’s status are now reversing themselves. At a minimum, they are talking less definitively about Cheney’s downfall.

The New America Foundation and I are hosting a small dinner tonight at Washington’s Cosmos Club with Lawrence Wilkerson, former State Department Chief of Staff, and I’m sure that this topic will come up. I’ll report back if anything new comes to the surface.


Yup. The Cheney operation is a sleeper cell. And the Duncan Hunter and George Bush compartments are doing as ordered, with Cheney still in charge of the overall plan.


Update [2005-12-16 12:16:46 by susanhu]: It’s a real plus when every member of the cell does his and her jobs.


Raw Story notes that, on the second page of the above-cited article about the White House’s engagement in warrantless domestic spying, “the New York Times reveals that it held the story for a full year at the request of the Bush Administration.”

The Times also reveals that senior members of Congress from both parties knew about Bush’s decision to spy on Americans who were making international calls or emails without warrants.


Further, the Times notes that they have omitted information in the article they did write, agreeing with the Bush Administration that the information could be useful for terrorists. … Read all at Raw Story


The NYT sure is a team player: It holds a story for a year (for reasons I can’t fathom — can you?), and then it leaves out information (but what?). Every time the administration says information must remain secret to keep terrorists at bay, I know instinctively that they only want to keep us at bay.


And it’s smart of the NYT to play along. In the drama I’m watching, one loquacious member of a sleeper cell ended up buried to his neck in sand and stoned by other cell members. I’m sure Arthur Sulzberger doesn’t want to get whacked in the head by a big rock.

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