On Interrogation Policies, Republicans Winning the Message Fight
By Ben Pershing
It's too early to know how history will judge the Bush administration's use of harsh interrogation techniques, and the Obama administration's decision to make the details public. But it is clear, one week after the White House sparked a partisan fight by releasing Bush-era legal memos, that one side is on offense and one is on defense.
Democrats want this conversation to be about a) whether these interrogation policies were legal, and b) whether the Bush administration officials who approved them should face prosecution. Republicans want the conversation to be about a) whether tough interrogations helped obtain information that made the country safer, and b) whether Democrats knew about the policies at the time and raised no real objections.
So far, Republicans are winning the message fight. Nancy Pelosi did not actually contradict herself yesterday -- she said she was briefed in 2002 that waterboarding had been approved for use, not that it actually had been used -- but the GOP spun her comments so hard that Democrats spent much of the day on the defensive. Instead of focusing on what was legally and morally right, much of Thursday's chatter was about parsing what Pelosi did or didn't hear at a seven-year-old briefing. And Democrats have been too busy arguing amongst themselves to develop a coordinated message, particularly on how to proceed going forward.
Posted at 8:30 AM ET on Apr 24, 2009
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