Missing testimony

Coming this November to a polling station near you: a referendum on torture.

A reader reports:

I missed the part where Rumsfeld said, “And here are the steps that I have taken to make sure that this never happens again…”

Also: “And I give you and the American people my word, as I gave the President this morning, that it never will…”

Must’ve been out of the room at the time, or something.

I must have been out of the room then, too.

The Daily Brew makes a point I hadn’t considered, a point which is the flip side of the Bushies’ insistence that a Kerry victory would hearten our enemies in the Arab world.

Every re-election campaign is, in effect, a referendum on the performance of the preceding four years. Re-electing Bush would constitute an endorsement of the policies that led to Abu Ghraib.

A President isn’t responsible for every horror that happpens on his watch, but he’s responsible for taking both reasonable precautions to prevent horrors and serious actions, once horrors happen, to hold those in the chain of command who should have prevented them responsible and ensure that the horrors won’t continue or repeat. To vote for Bush means, in part, that we’re satisfied with his conduct before and after those horrible pictures were taken.

That is not, I submit, a message we should want to send to our foes, or our friends, abroad. Or, for that matter, to ourselves.

[Footnote: Does this mean that re-electing Clinton amounted to a ratification of Waco? Yes, it does.

Every election has multiple meanings, but one of the meanings of the election of 1996 was that Waco-like horrors, and limp-noodle reactions to Waco-style horrors, aren’t enough to guarantee a sitting President’s defeat. The republic is less secure because of that political reality. There were other reasons — adequate ones, in my mind — to vote for Clinton, but Waco, and in particular Clinton’s failure to fire Reno, Freeh, and the FBI folks directly responsible, was a good reason to vote against him.

Bush’s problem is that the war in Iraq — and the (in my view delusional) assertion that it was integral to the terror-control effort — has been the centerpiece of his Presidency, and will be the centerpiece of his re-election campaign. So voting for Bush the war President can’t easily be divided from voting for Bush the enabler of torturers.]

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com