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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Bush's Busy Day

In my free time, I like to read the transcripts from White House press conferences. It is partly because I'm a nerd and partly because Dubya is actually intentionally funny sometimes. If I didn't dislike him so much, I might actually enjoy his company if we ever met at a blackjack table. That aside, something in today's press conference caught my eye...

GWB: Wolffe. (that's Richard Wolffe of Newsweek)
Q: Thank you, sir. A simple question.
GWB: Yes. It may require a simple answer.
Q: What's your definition of the word "torture"?
GWB: Of what?
Q: The word "torture." What's your definition?
GWB: That's defined in U.S. law, and we don't torture.
Q: Can you give me your version of it, sir?
GWB: Whatever the law says.

Why this interests me is that you may remember a little something called Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2006 (H.R.2863, a.k.a. the McCain Detainee Amendment). You might remember it as the "Detainee Torture Ban". You also might remember that right after he signed the bill, he issued a signing statement giving him pretty broad authority to ignore parts, if not all of it as he sees fit. So you can ask him the definition of torture, and he can tell you that his definition of torture is whatever the law says, but what he won't mention is that he gets to make up the law as he goes along.

The other reason this particular question caught my eye is that a mere 2 hours and 26 minutes later he was awarding the Dalai Lama with Congress' highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal. In his speech Bush said that in giving this award, "America raises its voice in the call for religious liberty and basic human rights...Today we honor him as a universal symbol of peace and tolerance."

Interesting juxtaposition.



Anonymous reebs said...

Um, has anybody seen the Dalai Lama since then? Maybe we should make sure he isn't making an unannounced visit to Cuba or anything.

10:45 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quick point: When you are asked to define a word that is defined as a legal term and you miss a word here or there it doesn't matter b/c no one cares (except me:-). But when the President of the United States (any POTUS) is asked to define the same word, if he is not spot one with the legal definition- word for word, it creates complications and/or ambiguity of the true definition, much like when congress' discussions, arbitrations and committee notes of a bill or law before its passage are admissible in any civil or criminal action in court as a means to define its "true intent."

If you can define torture giving the word for word definition that matches the legal one (with out google) more power to you, but Every President is counseled to avoid these types of questions by WH general counsels.

That is all.

10:52 AM

Blogger (A Little) Gris Gris said...

I understand what they were trying to do, but I'm a little perturbed that Bush presented a Congressional award. Could this be the support for Cheney's claim of both executive and congressional privledge?

Anon - point well taken, but given the inherent weight of a discussion of torture perpetuated by and on behalf of the U.S. government, there is an expectation that (any) POTUS would have of both a thorough understanding of the definition of torture and a 'stock' response (as crafted by and with said counsel) to provide to the American public. Furthermore, W's response, or lack there of, serves to reenforce the lack of transparency that has become the signature of his administration.

12:09 PM


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