Defining Despicable Down
I've been on an Andrew Sullivan kick recently - just began reading his new book, of interest to fans of his blog but of greater benefit to everyone else. Today he links to an excerpt of Bill "Lou Dobbs Ain't Got Nothin' On Me" O'Reilly's recent interview of the president, where O'Reilly questions him on torture. Almost incredibly, a single, simple question from the principled advocate of torture sends the president into a frenzy of obfuscation and doublespeak - prompting viewers to marvel at the spectacle of Bill O'Reilly being lectured by anyone on the strategic sine qua non of waterboarding:
"But if the public doesn't know what torture is or is not, as defined by the Bush Administration, how can the public make a decision on whether your policy is right or wrong?"
We can't possibly, of course. Bush's inscrutable answer is also damnable - specious as the day is long. The president's rationale is buttressed by the demonstrably false claim (which Sullivan calls such) that we've only subjected active combatants "we've picked up on the battlefield." We already know of straightforward cases of the contrary, and if Jose Padilla's lawyers aren't lying, we have yet another. Bush again manages to summon impressive rhetorical prowess when prevarication is called for. And, of course, he again proves himself unable to speak of the political aspects of his presidency, even on the morally ponderous question of torture, without partisan inflection.
The moral question having been asked and decided, I think, rather conclusively, the question begged is how to weight the moral answer. It seems pretty obvious, setting aside the substantive definition of torture, that the greater moral hazard lies in this administration's conscious endeavor to make fact seem like fiction. Equivocation is the original sin in question.