Dishonest or Stupid?

It could be both, I suppose, but there's no question that at least one of those two qualities is in full array in King George the Lesser's defense of his Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey. King Georgie came out in defense of his nominee today, which in any sane universe would mean that Mukasey's nomination would be floating like a seven-year-old's pet goldfish, but in this one practically guarantees him 70 votes in the Senate. But a little background first.

Mukasey's in "trouble" because he refuses to say that waterboarding is torture, even though it was considered torture when the Catholics did it during the Inquisition, and when we prosecuted Japanese officers for doing it to POWs during World War II. And make no mistake about it--the question that Mukasey has been asked is "do you think that waterboarding is torture?" It's a simple enough question--if you don't know how it's done by now, then you haven't been paying attention, because news outlets have practically provided a step-by-step how-to manual on the practice over the last couple of months. Do you think that waterboarding is torture? It's not a difficult question--we have US legal precedent on the matter. But he hedges and hems and haws, and now has that rhetorical blunderbuss, King George the Lesser, weighing in on his side.

Bush said it was unfair to ask Mukasey about interrogation techniques on which he has not been briefed. “He doesn’t know whether we use that technique or not,” the president told a group of reporters invited into the Oval Office.

So here's the point where we ask "dishonest or stupid," because it's clear that Bush is not on the same page as everyone else in this discussion. In the old days, when there was an assumption of competence on the part of the President (you know, like 7 years ago), the answer would have been easy--dishonest. Bush's answer is a perfect example of Robert McNamara's maxim that you don't answer the question you were asked--you answer the question you wish you were asked.

But a part of me wonders if Bush understands that he didn't answer the question, if he doesn't really get that Mukasey's answer is not dependent on whether or not he's been briefed on the particular type of waterboarding the US is doing, or even if the US is doing it to their prisoners. Mukasey wasn't asked any of that, thus rendering Bush's objection as moot as Duncan Hunter's presidential prospects.

I've been a bit tongue-in-cheek for this post (I hope that's been obvious)--I think Bush knows exactly what he said and why he said it. It's a case of trying to divert attention away from the real controversy and shift blame onto those people who dare to question the tactics he and his administration are using on prisoners in our names. The real question is, will the Senate Judiciary Committee fall for it?

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