Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Just keep walking

It's been two days, and I'm still trying to get over Peggy Noonan's appearance on Sunday's This Week (with George Stephanopoulos) on ABC. I've written about this Wall Street Journal pundit before, her hunching forward in her chair as she whispers out pronouncements about the world from her perch that we are to take oh-so-seriously. Her reporting by walking around has allowed her to miss pretty much everything that's been going on in the country, and her self-important manner is in complete contrast to the wispiness of her ideas.

Peggy and the gang, Stephanopoulos, Will, Donaldson, and Roberts, were meandering in typical fashion through the news of the week, taking their predictable positions on all things, when they came to the release of the torture memos.

[Note: Perhaps the most ridiculous criticism of the release of the memos is that it would allow the terrorists to "prepare" for torture by revealing the methods. First of all, the techniques are already out there; there didn't seem to be anything new in the memos.

Second, Chertoff and Hayden, I have a suggestion: we're going to wire your genitals to a car battery in, say, three months. You have all that time to prepare, so I'm sure you'll breeze right through it, right?

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that the average person can withstand a pain level of 3 on a 0-10 scale. So we tell our enemies that we torture, so they begin to prepare themselves. They get up to the point where 6 is no problem, then we capture them. And...we turn it up to 7.]

I've expressed reservations over putting various members of the Bush administration on trial. I'm not certain the country is well-served by what would be lengthy and partisan trials. (I'm unsettled by the prospect of a lengthy trial of Illinois ex-governor Blagojevich, but it must happen under our system.) There was a lot of fear in the aftermath of 9/11, so, while I support a complete release of the facts, I'm still not convinced that turning that truth into a criminal proceeding against Bush, Cheney, and the others who approved of these activities serves any purpose. Frankly, either option makes me ill.

And then comes Peggy. She definitely feels we need to move on, which she expressed as, "Some things in life need to be mysterious. Sometimes you need to just keep walking. ... It's hard for me to look at a great nation issuing these documents and sending them out to the world and thinking, oh, much good will come of that."

As a result, I've changed my opinion. That this wealthy, respected opinionator could, in her usual flippant manner, could believe that we should just gloss over this, the systematic (and ineffective) torture of prisoners in our custody is revolting. She would happily cloak herself in the 1st Amendment if anyone tried to abridge her freedom of the press, but her desire to discover the truth, which ought to serve as her job description, is conditional on what might be found - and who might be found under the rock.

If Peggy Noonan feels that our democratic government should cover things up, that we "need to be mysterious," that we "need to just keep walking," then she should walk right out of her cushy sinecure, her lush job pontificating to the great unwashed, and take some time to explore what other acts would deserve the brush-off. If someone breaks into her lavish digs and steals all her stuff, maybe the NYPD should just keep walking.

So, inspired by Peggy's limp thinking, I now believe we need to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. If Bush and Cheney violated the laws of this land, put them on trial. The lawyers who wrote the opinions that permitted the use of illegal tactics should be turned out; at a minimum, Bybee should be impeached and Yoo should be kicked out of Berkeley. Maybe Peggy will quit and join the defense team, using her novel strategy of "keep walking."

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