Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Pro-life, with three exceptions


Scottie McClellan, asked today if Bush shared Harriet Miers’ 1989 unwillingness to countenance abortion even for victims of rape, said, “The President is pro-life, with three exceptions, and that’s been his position all along.”

Mostly, Little Scottie stone-walled questions (I was going to say dodged, but that implies a nimbleness that Scottie, to put it mildly, lacks) about the NY Daily News article you’ve all read by now. I’m sure it’s true that Bush did indeed know two years ago that Rove had done what Rove does, but the article as stands is based entirely on anonymous sources, which means it rests entirely on the credibility of... the New York Daily News.

That makes not one but two man-bites-dog stories about Bush: usually, Bush really doesn’t know about things that he claims to know about, but in these cases he actually did know about things (Miers’s position about abortion, who leaked Valerie Plame’s name) he had claimed not to know anything about.

Speaking of wilful ignorance, an AP story entitled “Guantanamo Hunger Strikers Shirk Tubes,” which informs us a) that AP doesn’t know what the word “shirk” means, b) that Gitmo prisoners allege that forcible feeding has been used as a punishment and that, ew gross, the NG tubes are not cleaned between prisoners, quotes the Pentagon spokesmodel for Guantanamo, Lt. Col. Jeremy Martin, calling those charges “wholly inaccurate and blatantly misrepresent the excellent work being done here by honorable military and civilian professionals,” BUT adds that Martin “did not know the specific procedures for handling the feeding tubes.” So a pretty categorical statement issued from a position of complete admitted ignorance. And if the Guantanamo spokesman doesn’t know about this, what does he know about?

Saddam’s trial began today, and it was, as predicted, showy. In Iraq, it was televised but on a delay, in case of a wardrobe malfunction. The trial, which may be the only one of Saddam because of the requirement that if convicted he be executed within 30 days, is about the many deadly punishments Saddam inflicted on the Shiite town Dujail after an assassination attempt on him occurred there in 1982. An odd choice, at least to those of us who remember the phrase “He’s the guy who tried to kill my dad.”

The trial was immediately adjourned, not because Saddam’s lawyer asked for it, which he did, but because, according to the lead judge, none of the witnesses showed up because they were all scared. Which may be true, but the fact that the judge said it doesn’t speak well for his impartiality. Of the 5 judges, we only know the name of one, who is a Kurd, which I’m sure will go over real well among the Sunnis. The cameras stayed off the anonymous four, two or more of whom have no more judicial experience than Harriet Miers, which is especially important because the standard of proof that the Americans designated for this tribunal is that the judges must only be “satisfied” by the evidence, as opposed to, say, convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. By the way, the prosecutor is accusing Saddam of having used improper procedures (“nominal and only on paper”) in the conviction of people in Dujail.

Condi Rice told the Senate foreign relations committee that American policy in Iraq is “clear, hold and build,” which sounds like the sort of management jargon the pointy-haired boss in Dilbert would recite. Biden, evidently asking for the very most he thought he could ask, which is why he is such a waste of space, asked her “at what point, assuming the strategy works, do you think we’ll be able to see some sign of bringing some American forces home?” She forthrightly responded, “I don’t want to hazard what I think would be a guess, even if it were an assessment, of when that might be possible.” And thus was Congressional oversight accomplished in our fair republic.

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