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Dick Cheney Better Tear Up His Passport

In and of itself, it’s not really surprising that Dick Cheney should defend the torture and indefinite detention — which, the founding fathers understood, was itself torture — that his acolytes in the Bush administration pushed on the country. Nor is it really surprising that he’s not man enough to admit what he ordered was torture. (” On the question of so-called torture, we don’t do torture. We never have.”) And nor is it really surprising that he’d misrepresent the basis for the torture and warrantless surveillance programs. (“We had the Justice Department issue the requisite opinions in order to know where the bright lines were that you could not cross,” even though no lawyer who isn’t David Addington, John Yoo, Jay Bybee, Jim Haynes or Alberto Gonzales believes those opinions are worth the paper they’re printed on.)

What is a little surprising is that the Bush administration would go so far to defend the most appalling aspects of its record — the invasion of Iraq, torture, warrantless surveillance, indefinite detention, Guantanamo Bay — as it leaves office. That’s what was behind President Bush’s ruined pit stop to Baghdad: an attempt to get the American people to believe, one last time, that the Iraq war was a glorious and victorious enterprise, no matter what their lying eyes may tell them. I gather the domestic-policy version of this defend-the-indefensible tour is what Bush will offer to an American Enterprise Institute audience tomorrow morning.

Perhaps this is a concession, of sorts, to the reality that history will judge the administration primarily on its record here — which is saying quite a lot, considering these people also let a major American city drown and plunged the world into a recession. So what can it do, really, but insist it was right all along and history will vindicate it? Par for the course, I suppose.

What we can do in response is never listen to these people or their ideas ever again. They’ll be on TV, publishing their memoirs, penning op-eds, opening their libraries, delivering speeches. They won’t hurt for media attention — a sad but inevitable truth. But their records speak for themselves. In general, it’s poor argument form to dismiss a contention by saying “consider the source.” But we’re not dealing with models of intellectual honesty here. We’re dealing with people who lie professionally. They’ve had their chance at public life and we can see, from New Orleans to Abu Ghraib to Waziristan, what they’ve done with it. They’ve implicated themselves. All we’d be doing by ignoring and dismissing them, until the days they die, is recognizing it.

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