Monday, December 10, 2007

Plenty of Blame to Go Around

Some are more surprised than others at the latest revelation that Nancy Pelosi was among a small bipartisan group of Congresscritters briefed by the CIA in 2002 about our new and innovative interrogation techniques, including waterboarding. They did not object.

Now I have no less contempt for Democrats than anyone else, but let's think about this for a second - this was 2002. A quick google search reveals that President Bush's approval ratings in September of 2002 were 70%; even Cheney and Rumsfeld polled in the 60s. Failing to stridently oppose the neo-conservative agenda seems politically stupid for the Democrats now, but in 2002 it would have been a principled, prescient, honorable political suicide.

The nation was collectively insane in 2002. The President should never, ever have 70% approval ratings, let alone the 87% he had around when the Patriot Act passed. To expect the President not to abuse that power, and to expect the opposing party to put up an objection, is to forget what this country was like in 2002. Politicians willing to commit political suicide lose elections long before they make it to Congress. This is not news. Pelosi deserves no more and no less contempt than anyone else in the Democratic party for letting the popular president have his way in 2002. Our political system produces politicians, and successful politicians are concerned first and foremost with keeping their jobs.

I'm all for endorsing anti-torture candidates even if they're a little nuts, but this little episode doesn't tell me anything about Democrats or Pelosi that I didn't already know. The lesson here is that 70% approval rates are as ripe for abuse as any other form of power.

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