Another day, another questionable Rasmussen poll

Rasmussen has a recent poll showing opposition to Obama’s release of the torture memos:

Most voters (58%) shared Cheney’s view on a related topic, that the release of CIA memos about the harsh interrogation methods used on terrorism suspects endangers U.S. national security.

Forty-one percent (41%) of voters have a favorable view of Cheney, with 15% very favorable. Most voters (53%) have an unfavorable opinion of President George W. Bush’s number two, including 37% who view him very unfavorably.

Other recent polls
show Cheney with a much lower approval rating — between 18 and 30 percent depending on the poll. And here’s the exact question that yielded the 58% opposing the release of the torture memos:

Does the release of CIA memos on interrogation techniques help the image of the United States abroad or does it endanger the national security of the United States?

Not many respondents are going to say that the release helps the image of the United States, because the argument for that is fairly complex — we look good for being honest about the past — so this clearly skews towards a response that the memos endanger national security.

Reporters like Glenn Thrush ought to stop repeating Rasumssen date, given the track record.

(In complete fairness, note that another Rasmussen poll shows Americans not agreeing with Cheney that Obama has made the country less safe in general.)

Whatever it takes to piss off liberals

David Ignatius on Obama’s reversal on the release of Pentagon interrogation photos:

Is this a “Sister Soulja” moment on national security, like bill Clinton’s famous criticism of a controversial rap singer during the 1992 presidential campaign — which upset some liberal supporters but polished his credentials as a centrist? We’ll have to wait and see, but certainly military officers I spoke with this week were pleased — even as the ACLU was indignant.

There are so many problems with this, it’s hard to know where to start. First off, does David Ignatius really believe therre are “centrist” voters out there who will now support Obama because of his decision not to release these photos? Second, this is a policy decision, one I’m not sure I agree with, but one that seems to have been made because of input from the military (and Petraeus in particular). What the hell does that have to do with Bill Clinton condemning an oscure rap singer to distance himself form Jesse Jackson?

Finally, I just don’t understand the Village obsession with having politicians piss off their base. It’s more pronounced when the base is liberals, to be sure, but they were pretty hot and bothered about the idea of a pro-choice Republican VP as well.

Why? Sure it would score points with David Broder, but do they really believe that should be every politician’s highest aspiration?

(via Atrios)

War crimes are a feature, not a bug

From a somewhat interesting piece in the Woodrow Wilson Quarterly:

The simple and amazing answer is that most Americans assumed that their country has a rich and vibrant “marketplace of ideas” in which all ideas are challenged. Certainly, America has the freest media in the world. No subject is taboo. No sacred cow is immune from criticism. But the paradox here is that the belief that American society allows every idea to be challenged has led Americans to assume that every idea is challenged.

I think that is exactly right. There is a widespread belief that we have a truly open debate over ideas in this country. In fact, our media does indeed pride itself on challenging consensus, but its idea of challenging consensus is bringing in nutters like Peggy Noonan, Patty Patty Buke Buke, and an endless array of supply side “economists” to challenge the “liberal” consensus that magic dolphins don’t exist, that Latin Americans are not scrub stock, and that cutting taxes does not magically increase tax revenue. That’s why the Philadelphia Inquirer’s explanation for hiring torture architect John Yoo is hardly surprising:

“There was a conscious effort on our part to counter some of the criticism of The Inquirer as being a knee-jerk liberal publication,” Mr. Jackson said. “We made a conscious effort to add some conservative voices to our mix.”


“What I liked about John Yoo is he’s a Philadelphian,” Mr. Tierney said. “He went to Episcopal Academy, where I went to school. He’s a very, very bright guy. He’s on the faculty at Berkeley, one of the most liberal universities in the country.”

Greater Philly has a population of 5 million people. That means there are most likely at least 15-20 Philadelphians on the faculty at Berkeley (I’m estimating the faculty size there at a bit over 1000). John Yoo was not chosen because he is the only Philadelphian at “one of the most liberal universities in the country”. He was chosen for his “edgy”, “outside-the-box” view on torture. Why? Because supporting whacked out, barbaric ideas shows that you’re not a typical “media liberal”.

This is where we’re at, in terms of public dialog: hiring torture advocates is a way of promoting intellectual diversity.

The Global War On Empathy

The Washington Monthly (here; here) is all over the right-wing’s insane attacks on Obama’s notion of an empathetic judge. Here’s a pretty good summation from Dahlia Lithwick:

Empathy in a judge does not mean stopping midtrial to tenderly clutch the defendant to your heart and weep. It doesn’t mean reflexively giving one class of people an advantage over another because their lives are sad or difficult. When the president talks about empathy, he talks not of legal outcomes but of an intellectual and ethical process: the ability to think about the law from more than one perspective.

And, remarkably enough, John Yoo is one of the foot soldiers in the Global War On Empathy, in his new role as a opinion columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer:

In his 2005 confirmation hearings, Roberts compared judges to neutral umpires in a baseball game. Sen. Obama did not vote to confirm Roberts or Alito, but now proposes to appoint a Great Empathizer who will call balls and strikes with a strike zone that depends on the sex, race, and social and economic background of the players. Nothing could be more damaging to the fairness of the game, or to the idea of a rule of law that is blind to the identity of the parties before it.

Here’s hoping that this war is administered with the same ruthlessness as the Global War On Terror. I say we start by replacing those outdated judicial confirmation hearings with several sessions of waterboarding. There’s no way we’ll really know what nominees think about Roe v. Wade until we’ve subjected them to extreme interrogation.

Ticking bomb, bitches

I hesitate to post about this, since Cohen begins with “Blogger alert” and agrees that torture is a “moral abomination”, but nevertheless it’s a fascinating glimpse into contemporary Beltway media thinking:

But where I reserve a soupçon of doubt is over the question of whether “enhanced interrogation techniques” actually work. That they do not is a matter of absolute conviction among those on the political left, who seem to think that the CIA tortured suspected terrorists just for the hell of it.

Cheney, though, is adamant that the very measures that are now deemed illegal did work and that, furthermore, doing away with them has made the country less safe. Cheney said this most recently on Sunday, on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “Those policies were responsible for saving lives,” he told Bob Schieffer. In effect, Cheney poses a hard, hard question: Is it more immoral to torture than it is to fail to prevent the deaths of thousands?

It’s a perfect example of the Slate/TNR/WaPo tendency towards “what if genocide is good for housing prices” contrarianism. You know the drill: (a) we live in a dangerous world filled with “messy” choices and (b) it’s important to challenge complacent “consensus” by thinking “outside the box.” It’s why Bill Saletan has to “soak his head” in white supremacist propaganda and compare those who reject racial supremacism to those who reject evolution. It’s why Pinochet should be lauded as a hero, not condemned as a mass murderer. It’s why the public needs to hear Amity Shlaes’s distorted New Deal revisionism over and over again.

Leave Rush alone, continued

Those offended by Wanda Sykes’ jokes about Rush Limbaugh at the WHCD last night might do well to remember some of what has gone on in the past at a similar party, the Gridiron dinner (h/t commenter JK):

Things got no better at the Gridiron that night. Absolutely determined that a good time would be had by all, and equally determined to bring down the house, Richard Nixon appeared as the final act. The curtain pulled back to reveal the president and Vice President Spiro Agnew seated at two modest black pianos (Dwight Chapin at the White House had requested grand pianos or at least baby grands but the Statler Hilton could only manage uprights). This was the first time a chief executive had appeared on the Gridiron stage, and Nixon opened by asking: “What about this ‘southern strategy’ we hear so often?” “Yes suh, Mr. President,” Agnew replied, “Ah agree with you completely on yoah southern strategy.” The dialect, as Wilkins observed, got the biggest boffo.

The Gridiron club is “a select covey of journalists who are to the Washington news fraternity what Skull and Bones is to Yale” according to one of its current members. It’s worth noting that Obama didn’t go to the Gridiron dinner this year, something that the same Toby Harnden who was so upset by Wanda Sykes thought was a terrible move on the president’s part.

Now, I realize that the Gridiron dinners that featured Nixon were a very long time ago. But bear in mind also that many Gridiron members — such as David Broder — are themselves quite ancient and are most likely somewhat aware of what has gone on at past dinners.

When powerful white people put on minstrel shows for other powerful white people, that’s comedy. When a black comic makes a joke about a white millionaire, it’s over the line.

Leave Rush alone!

You had to know this was coming:

There’s some chatter in the blogosphere and on cable TV about comedian Wanda Sykes’ routine at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner last night, particularly her jokes about conservative talk radio giant Rush Limbaugh.


London Telegraph US editor Toby Harnden had a very different reaction, writing “Obama seemed to think this bit was pretty hilarious, grinning and chuckling and turning to share the ‘joke’ with the person sitting on his right. There’s not much room for differing interpretations of what Sykes said. She called Limbaugh a terrorist and a traitor, suggested that he be tortured and wished him dead. What was his crime? Hoping that Obama’s policies – which he views as socialist – will fail. That’s way, way beyond reasoned debate or comedy and Obama’s reaction to it was astonishing…Obama laughing when someone wishes Limbaugh dead? Hard to take from the man who promised a new era of civility and elevated debate in Washington.”

Pat Buchanan, who has his own history of offensive comments, likewise said on MSNBC that Sykes’s jokes about Limbaugh will “hurt the dinner.”

It’s from Jake Tapper, natch.

But what do I know? I’ve never worked in the media and I have no clue how things function.