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Bush Is the Wrong Role Model

By Dan Froomkin
4:30 PM ET, 04/23/2009


Bush giving a speech in 2007. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

(I'm off until Monday morning.)

There's going to be an awful lot of assessing going on in the next week as we close in on the 100-day mark of the Obama presidency. And one thing I'll be watching out for is what people are using as their frame of reference. Because the one way to make sure Obama doesn't measure up is to judge him -- either consciously or unconsciously -- on the Bush imperial presidency scale.

A lot of Washington pundits seem to have internalized the view that the commander in chief of the United States should treat allies like servants, enemies like dirt, and Congress like a minor appendage of the executive branch. Anything but unilateralism -- anything that involves compromise, or deference, or shows of respect -- is interpreted as weakness. And weakness, by this reckoning, is the one unforgivable sin in an American president -- way worse than, say, profoundly bad judgment.

Here's a reminder to those who apparently yearn for a bully in the bully pulpit: It didn't work out so great last time around. Looking back on the past eight years, there were more Bush "victories" than you can count -- Congress, certainly, caved in over and over -- but they didn't end up serving the country particularly well.

And despite the growing catcalls from the right and a persistent media narrative that casts Obama as soft, the American public has no doubt that Obama is the alpha dog. In an Associated Press poll just out this morning, for instance, an overwhelming majority of Americans -- 76 percent -- say he is a strong leader.

Indeed, Ron Fournier and Trevor Tompson write for the AP: "For the first time in years, more Americans than not say the country is headed in the right direction, a sign that Barack Obama has used the first 100 days of his presidency to lift the public's mood and inspire hopes for a brighter future.

"Intensely worried about their personal finances and medical expenses, Americans nonetheless appear realistic about the time Obama might need to turn things around, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll. It shows most Americans consider their new president to be a strong, ethical and empathetic leader who is working to change Washington." Obama gets a 64 percent approval rating in the AP poll.

A Pew Research Center poll finds Obama's job approval at 63 percent, and "fully 73% of Americans – including as many as 46% of Republicans – hold a favorable view of Obama as a person."

And, Pew reports: "In conducting foreign policy, most Americans think Obama is striking the right balance in pushing American interests (57%) and in taking into account the interests and views of U.S. allies (56%). Fewer than a third (31%) believe that Obama is not pushing U.S. interests hard enough, and even fewer (19%) say he takes interests of allies too much into account."

Doesn't sound particularly weak to me.

Now it's true that there are certain problems with the Obama approach, particularly as far as the all-important-to-the-Washington-crowd "optics" are concerned. You don't always get exactly what you want. You certainly don't get all the credit. Things happen behind the scenes. They take time. There's no collecting of scalps; there's no dancing in the end zone.

But the Obama agenda is so dramatic and so enormous in scope -- so muscular, one might even say -- that even if taking a more collaborative approach means that only a somewhat reduced and modified version of it is enacted, that would still be a huge accomplishment. And, indeed, looking back at the single most significant product of the first 100 days, signs are that Obama is quite capable of getting almost exactly what he wants even while giving others a role.

Lest we forget, the $800 billion stimulus bill passed in February -- after Obama had ostensibly ceded his power to congressional leaders -- ended up being almost exactly what he had in mind: a massive down payment on his vision of a government that invests in infrastructure and green energy, streamlines health-care delivery and dramatically rebuilds the social safety net.

Furthermore, Obama's collaborative approach, both domestically and internationally, has some distinct advantages. Its achievements are likely to be longer lasting because more people are invested in their success. It's also a less hypocritical way of doing business, as it involves practicing what you preach, rather than breaking the rules for yourself while expecting everyone else to follow them.

Obama's approach to the world reflects a view of American exceptionalism that doesn't give the U.S. the right to do whatever it wants, but rather assumes that we act in ways that lead others to look up to us as a force for good. It calls for our vast military superiority to be understated, rather than overstated -- which is arguably more effective. It's certainly a radical departure from the Cheneyite/neocon principle that you have to constantly show people how strong you are. But again: That didn't work out so well for us.

And Obama is coming from a great position of strength, whether he shouts it from the rooftops or not. We remain the world's only superpower. No military challenge -- with the notable exception of occupying countries where we are unwelcome -- is beyond us. And, as noted above, the public is solidly behind him.

Nevertheless, concern about his alleged weakness has become a frequent point of criticism. The most recent occasion was his friendly-looking handshake with Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez at last weekend's Summit of the Americas. But it also pervades the look-aheads to the upcoming legislative battles over his sweeping budget proposals.

Dan Balz wrote for The Washington Post: "President Obama's weekend of summitry in Latin America will be remembered most for his cordial encounter with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. The images of that smiling handshake spoke vividly to the changes Obama is bringing to U.S. relations abroad.

"The underlying question in all this is whether Obama's approach means the United States will be dealing out of a position of strength or weakness as the new administration confronts problems ranging from Iran's nuclear ambitions to Middle East peace to better relations in this hemisphere. Does Obama's desire to deal more cordially with leaders who are hostile to the United States make him more or less likely to achieve the country's strategic goals in tough negotiations?"

Howard Kurtz wrote a couple days later in The Washington Post: "The president who was elected in no small measure because of his even temperament is getting cuffed around for not expressing displeasure, pique or outright hostility.

"This line of criticism first surfaced with the AIG bonuses, when Obama took several days to say this was an 'outrage.' But he didn't look very outraged. He said America had a right to be angry at reckless banks and that he was angry as well. But he was quite calm when he said it, missing an opportunity, in my view, to identify with the widespread revulsion at the Wall Street titans who crashed the economy.

"Now the president is being denounced for his friendly treatment of Hugo Chavez, the America-basher from Venezuela."

David M. Herszenhorn and Jackie Calmes wrote in the New York Times: "President Obama is well known for bold proposals that have raised expectations, but his administration has shown a tendency for compromise and caution, and even a willingness to capitulate on some early initiatives....

"'The thing we still don’t know about him is what he is willing to fight for,' said Leonard Burman, an economist at the Urban Institute and a Treasury Department official in the Clinton administration. 'The thing I worry about is that he likes giving good speeches, he likes the adulation and he likes to make people happy.'"

But "Obama’s top aides dismiss suggestions that he has shied from confrontation...

"'We’re not taking on a fight; we’re taking on a multiple-front fight because we’ve taken on a series of entrenched interests across the waterfront — from education to health care, and the defense industry, and the lobbying industry as a whole,' the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, said."

So where is this Obama-is-weak meme coming from? Just guess.

David S. Cloud wrote for Politico: "Republicans are hoping they have finally found the secret to taking on President Barack Obama — by portraying him as overly apologetic about U.S. misdeeds and naive about engaging unfriendly regimes abroad."

Among the most outspoken Republican leaders on this point: Former House speak Newt Gingrich and former vice president Dick Cheney.

Foon Rhee writes for the Boston Globe: "'This administration is opposed to looking for oil in America, but bows to the Saudi king, embraces the Venezuelan dictator, I think it's a very unhealthy strategy for us,' Gingrich said on Fox News Channel. 'I think there is something fundamentally wrong with weakness in America, and then playing to placate dictators.'

"'This does look a lot like Jimmy Carter," Gingrich added. "Carter tried weakness and the world got tougher and tougher because the predators, the aggressors, the anti-Americans, the dictators, when they sense weakness, they all start pushing ahead.'"

Here's Cheney, in an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News: "I find disturbing is the extent to which he has gone to Europe, for example, and seemed to apologize profusely in Europe, and then to Mexico, and apologize there, and so forth...

"And I think you have to be very careful. The world outside there, both our friends and our foes, will be quick to take advantage of a situation if they think they're dealing with a weak president or one who is not going to stand up and aggressively defend America's interests. The United States provides most of the leadership in the world, we have for a long time. And I don't think we have much to apologize for....

"I think it's important the United States not come across as arrogant, but it's also important that we not come across as weak, or indecisive, or apologetic."

Similarly, former Bush White House aide Peter Wehner writes for Commentary: "When you braid Obama's apology tour with what some of us believe to be his weak early stands on a series of other matters.... the message Obama is sending is a potentially dangerous one: we are willing to absorb, but not to respond to, blows directed against us. And that, in turn, can set up a serious confrontation down the road.

But Mike Lupica writes in his New York Daily News opinion column that the "political discourse in this country dumber than socks....

"Now we are supposed to believe that the President doesn't really understand how dangerous the world is - only Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh really do - because he shook hands with Hugo Chavez of Venezuela....

"It makes sense to all those who think Obama can't do anything right, who decided he was the enemy of all things virtuous and patriotic long before he took the oath of office. To them, the handshake with Chavez is just the latest sign that Obama is more of an appeaser than Neville Chamberlain....

"More than anything he's done so far - whether you agree with him or not - Obama has shown that he is willing to listen. And for the past eight years, our foreign policy has been the complete opposite of that, even our allies being told to just shut up and take notes.....

"Continuing Bush's old schoolyard beef with Venezuela doesn't help us or make us safer. Neither do old rules and old grudges with Cuba. Obama shook a guy's hand this week. Only idiots think he should have left the guy hanging. Or greeted him with a clenched fist instead."

"Obama Abroad: All Soft, No Power?" That's the question Ben Bradlee and Steve Pearlstein asked their "On Leadership" panel on washingtonpost.com after Obama's European trip. Specifically, they asked: "In his overseas trip, President Obama was determined to show that he was the un-Bush, compromising and conciliatory, drawing no lines in the sand. As a new leader who is being closely watched and tested, should he have grabbed an opportunity during that same trip to demonstrate his toughness, showing his saber as well as his smile?"

But the members of Pearlstein-Bradlee's leadership panel -- people chosen for their knowledge of the topic -- were overwhelmingly supportive of the Obama approach. All but two were complimentary, and the other two were ambivalent. Consider a few of their views:

Elizabeth Sherman: "The world has had its fill of American 'toughness.' ... Obama intentionally cast himself as a leader among leaders, not the premier among underlings."

Howard Gardner: "President Obama is making it possible to have better, saner relations, and for that the whole world owes him a very big thank you."

Joanne B. Ciulla: "No one likes a bully. If there weren't people who actually believe that this is how Obama should behave, I would say it's a silly idea. Leaders who feel the need to show that they are tough are usually the ones who aren't... leaders should be tough but toughness comes from confidence and resides in deeds."

Bill Shore: "One gets the sense that he is confident and comfortable enough in his leadership that he doesn't need to go out of his way to demonstrate qualities like toughness."

And Kirsten Powers writes in her New York Post opinion column that Obama's "humility is driving the right-wing mad....

"Obama is merely doing what he always said he would -- engaging friends and foe alike. Those on the right are arguing for more of the same old, same old (ignoring some of the nations we don't like), despite the small fruit that strategy bore."

Obama's "view is premised on the idea that humility is a sign of strength. Conservatives seem to see it as a weakness.

"I'm with Benjamin Franklin, who once said, 'Humility makes great men twice honorable.'

"It does at least that for great nations."

Over in my White House Watchers discussion group, I raise a related question about what is strength and what is weakness: Where Should Obama Compromise? Please come weigh in. And I'll see you all again on Monday.

Focusing on the Big Stuff

By Dan Froomkin
1:00 PM ET, 04/23/2009

There's so much movement on the torture front these days that it's hard to keep track. It also can be hard to distinguish between what has long-term significance and what doesn't.

A big media focus today is on whether President Obama's reversed himself on Tuesday when he said he is not opposed to some "further accounting of what took place during this period" and said he could not rule out criminal prosecution for senior officials. There's also a lot of attention on whether Obama has lost control of the message.

No one will remember either of these issues a few days from now. What is significant, however, is that the idea of launching some sort of investigation into torture and other abuses committed by the Bush administration is now very much back on the national agenda. So which way should we go? It's an exciting debate we have ahead of us.

Also significant is yesterday's release of a new official timeline establishing that waterboarding, which is nearly universally considered to be torture, was explicitly approved by senior White House officials in the summer of 2002.

But to me, the most significant news of the day can be found on today's New York Times op-ed page, where former FBI supervisor Ali Soufan persuasively and memorably rebuts the misinformation being spread by those complicit in torture.

A question from a reader in my live chat yesterday helped me clarify my own response to the dead-enders, led by former vice president Dick Cheney, who insist that what they call "enhanced interrogation techniques" averted further terrorist attacks.

The point is this: Any assertions from these people should presumptively be considered misinformation. These are the same people who lied to us over and over again about the reasons for going to war, about the war, about our entire detainee policy (remember: "we don't torture"?) -- and about who was responsible for the endemic abuse.

As most of us recoiled with horror over the soulessnes of the legal memos released last week and their repulsive attempts to rationalize the indefensible, it was easy to overlook how much of what the lawyers said they'd been told by the CIA was lies.

Among the many lies that jumped out for me, but hasn't gotten attention, was the CIA's assurance to Justice Department lawyers, quoted in the August 1, 2002, memo that Abu Zubaida, the first detainee to be tortured by direct order of the White House, was mentally healthy enough to be able to withstand waterboarding and the like without any long-term mental health effects.

Here's what the memo said, documenting the CIA's recitation of facts: "Through reading his diaries and interviewing him, you have found no history of 'mood disturbance or other psychiatric pathology[,]' 'thought disorder[,] ... enduring mood or mental health problems.' He is in fact 'remarkably resilient and confident that he can overcome adversity.'"

And yet, according to investigative reporter Ron Suskind, in his book The One Percent Doctrine, Zubaida was overtly mentally ill. In fact, in that diary the CIA mentioned, Zubaida "wrote of his exploits in the voice of three people: Hani 1, Hani 2, and Hani 3" -- a boy, a young man and a middle-aged man, Suskind wrote. He also quoted the FBI's top al Qaeda analyst as saying: "This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality."

Anyhow, so along comes Soufan, who shares his first-hand knowledge of the interrogations.

"One of the most striking parts of the memos is the false premises on which they are based," he writes. The first, dated August 2002, grants authorization to use harsh interrogation techniques on a high-ranking terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, on the grounds that previous methods hadn't been working. The next three memos cite the successes of those methods as a justification for their continued use.

"It is inaccurate, however, to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative. Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence.....

"There was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah that wasn't, or couldn't have been, gained from regular tactics. In addition, I saw that using these alternative methods on other terrorists backfired on more than a few occasions — all of which are still classified. The short sightedness behind the use of these techniques ignored the unreliability of the methods, the nature of the threat, the mentality and modus operandi of the terrorists, and due process.

"Defenders of these techniques have claimed that they got Abu Zubaydah to give up information leading to the capture of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a top aide to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and [Jose] Padilla. This is false. The information that led to Mr. Shibh's capture came primarily from a different terrorist operative who was interviewed using traditional methods. As for Mr. Padilla, the dates just don't add up: the harsh techniques were approved in the memo of August 2002, Mr. Padilla had been arrested that May."

Soufan concludes: "It was the right decision to release these memos, as we need the truth to come out. This should not be a partisan matter, because it is in our national security interest to regain our position as the world's foremost defenders of human rights. Just as important, releasing these memos enables us to begin the tricky process of finally bringing these terrorists to justice."

Scott Shane writes in the New York Times: "Senior Bush administration officials, led by Vice President Dick Cheney and cheered by many Congressional Republicans, are fighting a rear-guard action in defense of their record. Only by using the harshest methods, they insist, did the intelligence agency get the information it needed to round up Qaeda killers and save thousands of American lives.

"Even President Obama's new director of national intelligence, Dennis C. Blair, wrote in a memorandum to his staff last week that 'high value information came from interrogations in which these methods were used,' an assertion left out when the memorandum was edited for public release. By contrast, Mr. Obama and most of his top aides have argued that the use of those methods betrayed American values — and anyway, produced unreliable information. Those are a convenient pair of opinions, of course: the moral balancing would be far trickier if the C.I.A. methods were demonstrated to have been crucial in disrupting major plots."

I disagree: The moral balancing isn't the least bit tricky if torture didn't work. In fact, in that case, there's no argument at all. Even if it did "work," of course, there are plenty of reasons to oppose it. But this is why Cheney is trying so desperately to keep his argument alive; if he concedes it, it would be like forfeiting the whole game.

Shane also points out, by the way, that the CIA apparently didn't give traditional interrogation much if any time to work on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. "The memorandum says that 'before the C.I.A. used enhanced techniques,' Mr. Mohammed 'resisted giving any answers to questions about future attacks, 'Simply noting, "Soon, you will know." '

"But the same memorandum reveals in a footnote that Mr. Mohammed, captured on March 1, 2003, was waterboarded 183 times that month. That striking number, which would average out to six waterboardings a day, suggests that interrogators did not try a traditional, rapport-building approach for long before escalating to their most extreme tool."

Meanwhile, R. Jeffrey Smith and Peter Finn write in The Washington Post about a new timeline released by the Senate intelligence committee last night.

"Condoleezza Rice, John D. Ashcroft and other top Bush administration officials approved as early as the summer of 2002 the CIA's use of harsh interrogation methods on detainees at secret prisons, including waterboarding...

"At a time when the Justice Department is deciding whether former officials who set interrogation policy or formulated the legal justifications for it should be investigated for possible crimes, the new timeline lists at least a dozen members of the Bush administration who were present when the CIA's director or others explained exactly which questioning techniques were to be used and how those sessions proceeded....

"After the leak in 2005 of a Justice Department memo that narrowly defined the type of activity that would constitute torture, Rice traveled to Europe in an effort to quell the international uproar. As her trip was getting underway, she said: 'The United States government does not authorize or condone torture of detainees. Torture, and conspiracy to commit torture, are crimes under U.S. law, wherever they may occur in the world.'"

And there's an awful lot being written on how all this effects Obama.

Dan Balz and Perry Bacon Jr. write in The Washington Post: "The legacy of George W. Bush continued to dog President Obama and his administration yesterday, as Congress divided over creating a panel to investigate the harsh interrogation techniques employed under Bush's authorization and the White House tried to contain the controversy over the president's decision to release Justice Department memos justifying and outlining those procedures....

"Obama has drawn sharp criticism from former vice president Richard B. Cheney, former CIA directors and Republican elected officials for releasing the memos. Those critics see softness in the commander in chief. He faces equally strong reaction from the left, where there is a desire to punish Bush administration officials for their actions and to conduct a more thorough investigation of what happened.....

"Obama apparently believed he could avoid what is now playing out." But now, Obama and his aides "have been drawn into a debate they did not foresee. The president has a full plate, domestically and internationally. He had hoped that, in winning the election and moving quickly to change his predecessor's policies, he could close the books on Bush's presidency.

"Instead, he has found in his first months how difficult that is. Hopes for an immediate change in tone have withered. Republican opposition to his economic policies remains nearly unanimous. With this latest controversy, he is learning that neither the opponents nor the defenders of Bush's presidency are ready to move on."

John Dickerson writes for Slate: "It may be time for an Obama do-over speech on the issue of torture. It's a form we've come to recognize—whether on the issue of bonuses for AIG executives or his relationship with his former pastor. He makes a declaration, the issue gets away from him, the political pressure builds, and he must rush in with a new declaration to contain the fallout."

Howard Fineman writes for Newsweek: "His response has been halting and hesitant. His message has been uncharacteristically muddied. And he is paying the price, at least in terms of message control."

Howard Kurtz writes for The Washington Post: "President Obama, who has called for looking forward, not backward, now finds himself in the situation he had hoped to avoid. By first ruling out and then opening the door to prosecuting officials from the previous administration, Obama has triggered political passions on both sides. At a time when his focus ought to be on the moribund banking system and the ailing economy, he has unleashed a furious debate about the past."

Sam Youngman writes for the Hill: "The day after opening a can of worms by saying he is open to a truth commission to investigate the authors of the controversial Bush-era enhanced interrogation memos, the White House stressed Wednesday that President Obama is neither proposing nor initiating those proceedings or the formation of a truth commission.

"White House press secretary Robert Gibbs, talking to reporters aboard Air Force One as the president traveled to Iowa, said any decision to prosecute the authors of the legal memos would come from the Justice Department and 'it has to be done outside of the realm of politics.'"

Stephen Collinson writes for AFP: "Gibbs said flatly that a flurry of news reports proclaiming the administration had switched course on delving further into those behind methods like near drowning, or waterboarding, were wrong....

"The spokesman also rejected calls by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for the appointment of an independent prosecutor to probe the torture issue.

"'The lawyers that are involved are plenty capable of determining whether any law has been broken,' Gibbs said."

For what it's worth, I have a fairly benign explanation for the ostensible reversal, as I articulated yesterday in my live chat.

Here's my guess. Obama has no appetite for "looking backward" as he has so much on his plate "looking forward." So he was never going to be the guy pushing for an investigation. On the other hand, he wasn't going to be the guy who actually blocked an investigation, either.

He thought he had found an acceptable compromise by releasing memos he was indeed morally bound to release, while making clear that the front-line guys who did what they were told was legal wouldn't be prosecuted. This was clever because the advocates of prosecution are focusing their efforts much higher up the chain of command.

Then, I think, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel stepped on it. His statement on a Sunday talk show indicated that all prosecutions were off the table. Not only was that not Obama's view, but it's not the White House's call to make. It's the Justice Department's. Then Gibbs, who lest we forget reports to Obama through Emanuel, chose not to disagree publicly with his boss.

At that point, Obama had no choice but to clarify a position that he had been trying to leave vague.

Meanwhile, Sam Stein writes for Huffingtonpost.com: "The central debate dominating discussions of a possible investigation into torture by the Bush administration seems to have shifted sharply in the past few days: from whether such an investigation should take place, to now what form it will have when it comes."

So what are the options? There's remarkably little discussion of that in the mainstream press. Although CQ notes that "Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy said Wednesday that if Republicans do not back an independent commission to investigate the George W. Bush administration's detainee interrogation program, he will launch a committee probe.

"'If we can't get a bipartisan commission to do this then we'll do it in the usual way,' Leahy said."

The New York Times editorial board writes: "When he was vice president, Dick Cheney never acknowledged the public's right to know anything. Now, suddenly, he has the full disclosure bug....

"Mr. Cheney claims that the waterboarding saved thousands of lives. Most accounts that don't come from officials involved in the formation of those policies suggest that that is not the case. The question needs to be answered so Americans can decide if they want to buy into Mr. Cheney's view that the ends always justify such barbaric means."

Gary Kamiya writes for Salon that torture can work -- but is still always wrong.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes: "Mark down the date. Tuesday, April 21, 2009, is the moment that any chance of a new era of bipartisan respect in Washington ended. By inviting the prosecution of Bush officials for their antiterror legal advice, President Obama has injected a poison into our politics that he and the country will live to regret."

And CNN host Ed Schultz, via Daily Kos, argues: "I think that Dick Cheney wants this country to get hit again for political gain...I think Cheney is that mean."

Quick Takes

By Dan Froomkin
12:17 PM ET, 04/23/2009

Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports for the New York Times on Obama's trip to an Iowa town yesterday: "Maytag is gone, its old factory replaced by a wind energy plant, which is why President Obama came to Newton, population 16,000, on Wednesday to mark Earth Day. He declared 'a new era of energy exploration in America' and pitched his energy plan as a win-win for the economy and the environment. 'The choice we face is not between saving our environment and saving our economy,' Mr. Obama said. 'The choice we face is between prosperity and decline. We can remain the world's leading importer of oil, or we can become the world's leading exporter of clean energy.'"

Slate has a nifty photo gallery of candid shots from White House photographer Pete Souza.

Late Night Humor

By Dan Froomkin
10:50 AM ET, 04/23/2009

Jon Stewart declares that Dick Cheney and Karl Rove "are now suffering from Balzheimers Disease. Why didn't I see it before? Balzheimers is a terrible illness that attacks the memory -- and gives its victims the balls to attack others for things they themselves made a career of. There is no known cure."

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Stewart then talks to John Oliver, who reports from "Bizarro Washington": "And it's here, and only here, where these latest developments make perfect sense."

Cartoon Watch

By Dan Froomkin
9:47 AM ET, 04/23/2009

Editorial cartoonists take a brutal look at the torture issue. Click on them all. Jim Morin on Cheneyboarding, Ann Telnaes on Cheney's defense, Stuart Carlson on Cheney's rationalizations, Tony Auth on Cheney's thinking, Matt Davies on Cheney's nightmare, Scott Stantis on the biggest victim, Tom Toles on tortured policy, Mike Luckovich on truth-telling, Joel Pett on the hypocrisy problem, Nick Anderson on accountability, Jim Day on enhanced prevarication techniques, Mike Keefe on the Republican vision, John Sherffius on the Bush/Cheney legacy, Rex Babin on Professor Yoo, Walt Handelsman on Obama's announcement, David Fitzimmons on Obama's tortured logic and John Trever on Obama's stressed position.

On some different notes, David Fitzsimmons on Obama's critics, Pat Bagley on the elephant in the room, Lisa Benson on Obama's budget sacrifices, Gary McCoy on Obama's apologies and Jake Fuller on Obama on the world stage.

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