The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


The Rundown

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.

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Posted at 8:30 AM ET on Apr 24, 2009  | Category:  The Rundown
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Americans do not torture. Period. The jerks that used vague legal opinions to pervert the American way are criminals. They need to go to jail (at least). I as a fifty something year old, I never thought that we would even have this discussion. John Wayne and all my cowboy heros must be spinning in their graves.

Posted by: gimpydwarf | April 26, 2009 12:33 PM

How can the Republicans claim their torture program a success when they were torturing innocent people. I mean, the people they were torturing were suspected terrorists not terrorists. I guess when ya hold everybody without charge or trial you don't have to worry about them being innocent. I swear Cheney's the Devil himself. I wonder where he hides his horns with that bald head?

Posted by: HemiHead66 | April 24, 2009 11:49 PM

It's simple. Americans don't torture.

Posted by: gwcox2 | April 24, 2009 8:44 PM

If you really want to protect your fellow citizens, then reject the corporate crooks who'll abuse and destroy anything and anyone, including you, just to feed their greed, because they're the ones who make the enemies we have to deal with.

Posted by: rooster54 | April 24, 2009 7:19 PM

If you really want to protect your fellow citizens, then reject the corporate crooks who'll abuse and destroy anything and anyone, including you, just to feed their greed.

Posted by: rooster54 | April 24, 2009 7:09 PM

" Or is it okay for American citizens to be tortured and killed?
Posted by: Seabird1 | April 24, 2009 9:52 AM"
What an asinine question. This is not the issue. The issue is we are a nation of laws, we've executed, yes, tried, convicted AND executed Japanese soldiers after WWII for WATERBOARDING Americans.

So you tell me who has set the precedent.

Do you think that becoming like them, torturing, killing prisoners, many of them innocent, makes us right?

If it were as simple as you say, torturing prisoners to get info to protect the homeland, then it would be a different argument. But, as more information comes out about the nature of these acts and how they came into being the more it calls for the very least, an investigation.

Posted by: JRM2 | April 24, 2009 12:04 PM

Seabird1 wrote: "The American people seem to have an awfully short memory -- have you all forgotten about the beheadings seen on television?"

Do you remember World War II?

The Civil War?

The American Revolution?

These were all incredibly vicious battles against powerful adversaries that genuinely threatened the survival of America as a free nation. They all generated huge loss of life, barbaric acts, and various atrocities.

But never, never, never before has torture been acceptable as the official policy of Americans. It has always been -- rightly -- scorned as beneath us. Always.

Until now.

*You* need to learn history.

Posted by: nodebris | April 24, 2009 11:50 AM

This is an incredibly myopic analysis. There is no way Republicans can "win" a discussion on torture, even if they manage to ding some Democrats in the process. Any continued discussion of torture, even when it damages a Democrat, is a net loss for Republicans.

Posted by: nodebris | April 24, 2009 11:45 AM

Frankly, I don't care who did what to whom and when or if anyone knew it. Whatever methods might have been used to protect the citizens of this country were necessary, in my opinion.

The American people seem to have an awfully short memory -- have you all forgotten about the beheadings seen on television? Does that not constitute cruel and inhuman treatment? Or is it okay for American citizens to be tortured and killed?

If even one shred of information, which prevented an attack of any kind, either massive or on one single person, was obtained by any of these "torture" methods, it was worth it.

It's time for all the hate between republicans and democrats to stop, get over it, whatever it is, all of you. There are an astounding number of issues which need our attention and, if some of you put half as much of your energy into addressing some of these issues as you do into hating, we'd all be a lot better off.

I'm neither a democrat nor a republican, I am an American and I want my country safe and secure.

Posted by: Seabird1 | April 24, 2009 9:52 AM

So the Republican "message" of having Dick Cheney take on the president is working? I beg to differ. Where are the numbers to define the GOP "victory" in the "message fight"? This is worse than Fox...

Posted by: parkerfl1 | April 24, 2009 9:51 AM


"100 days" press conference question for POTUS

Mr. President:

The Senate Armed Services Committee report on "enhanced interrogation techniques" used at Guantanamo stated at least twice that detainees were subject to "induced physical weakness and exhaustion."

The report also stated that detainees were subject to "physiological and psychological pressures" and "environmental manipulation."

Has your administration inquired as to what "induced" these effects...

...and whether detainees were exposed to microwave radiation devices such as so-called "directed energy weapon" discharges... or any other type of radiation, including X-rays, gamma rays, sonic waves, or laser "dazzlers"?

If detainees were exposed to radiation, does that not constitute "torture" and "cruel and unusual punishment" in and of itself?

OR (if links are corrupted):

Posted by: scrivener50 | April 24, 2009 9:36 AM

In my humble opinion, the Republicans are winning NOTHING. Right now they are losers and they are grabbing at straws. They are the ones who are fragmented and can't decide who to follow - is it Rush Limblah, or Ann Coulter? Maybe it should be Clem Kadiddelhopper. If they had a clue about the real problems and were not afraid to face them and suggest real solutions they might gain back all the face they have lost.

Posted by: the_piano_man | April 24, 2009 9:26 AM

Amoral, hypocrite, impotent, lying, fascist, Republicans

Posted by: dhxx | April 24, 2009 9:24 AM

Thank you Republicans, for getting to the bottom of Pelosi's use and love of torture. Now it is clearer than ever that Liberal crazies are responsible for the war in Iraq, America's economic crisis, the failures in New Orleans, the systematic destruction of the environment, the stunting of scientific advancement, the enrichment of Wall Street fatcats and Saudi oil princes, steroids in baseball, the ruination of our education system, 9/11, world war II, Rawandan genocide, the Black Plague, and Jesus' crucifiction.
Save us Republicans!!!

Posted by: DAMNEDGENTLEMEN | April 24, 2009 9:19 AM

Well said, lucy2008

Posted by: ctchnc | April 24, 2009 9:18 AM

This isn't about Dem's and Rep's, this is about torture. Prosecute EVERYONE who knew about this.

Posted by: Creamsykle | April 24, 2009 9:17 AM

Dear Mr. Pershing,
Why do pundits have to voice an opinion over who is winning the message war? Isn't that ironic? Isn't it hypocritcal and so uncitizen-like?

Almost everyone around me believes the view that torture is wrong and the American government tortured. Noone cares about Nancy Pelosi. Wake up sir, your spinning titles and words are so twisted. What are you really talking about? You and Washington and the rest of the main stream media have lost any sense of the rest of the country let alone our history for which it stands. You are not an example of freedom of speech. This circumvents it with spin and money-making advertisement.

Posted by: lucy2008 | April 24, 2009 9:12 AM

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