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Condoleezza Rice vs. a Fourth-Grader

Remember when Condoleezza Rice, perhaps the most disastrously inept national security adviser in history, snapped at a Stanford student that the United States hadn’t tortured anyone and that because the president said “enhanced interrogations” were legal they were, in fact, legal? It didn’t work on the Stanford kid. So Rice is now testing the line on a presumably less capable debating foil — young Misha Lerner, a fourth-grader in Washington. Alec MacGillis of The Washington Post reports:

Rice took the question in stride. First, she said she was reluctant to criticize Obama. “I will not agree with everything they do, and I won’t agree with everything they say,” she said. “But the worst thing about being in government is that people outside government who don’t have to deal with the daily struggles you do, and aren’t trying to solve really difficult problems, are just sitting out there commenting and criticizing, particularly people who’ve just been in government. That’s really unfair. So for the time being, if I disagree, I will keep it to myself.”

I know, I know. The real victims here are the former Bush officials who have to endure an endless litany of bad-faith criticism from, like, citizens. Remember: they whipped the Savior up the hill that morning. Draw strength from the example, Ms. Rice. (Sorry, Doctor Rice.)

Then she got to the heart of the question. “Let me just say that President Bush was very clear that he wanted to do everything he could to protect the country. After Sept. 11, [2001,] we wanted to protect the country,” she said. “But he was also very clear that we would do nothing, nothing that was against the law or against our obligations internationally. So the president was only willing to authorize policies that were legal in order to protect the country.”

She added: “I hope you understand that it was a very difficult time. We were all so terrified of another attack on the country. Sept. 11 was the worst day of my life in government, watching 3,000 Americans die. . . . Even under those most difficult circumstances, the president was not prepared to do something illegal, and I hope people understand that we were trying to protect the country.”

And I was trying to drive safely home, officer, and never intended to plow my car into that schoolyard full of fourth-graders. We can debate whether I should have had those drinks before getting behind the wheel, but my lawyers informed me that there were interpretations of the law under which everything I did was legal, and in any event my trusted friend told me that even before my lawyers gave me that advice I should go warm up the car. This is a time to look forward and not backward. And I might add that you weren’t even at the bar when we were making these plans.

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