Try Not to Think of a Waterboard

By James Taranto, Wall Street Journal - May 7, 2011

(Best of the Tube Tonight: We'll be on "Hannity" as part of the "Great American Panel." Fox News Channel, 9 p.m. ET, with a repeat showing at midnight ET.)

The Puffington Host headline could have been written in 2004: "Administration Grows Frustrated as Conversation Shifts From bin Laden to Waterboarding."

Everyone's talking about how we shouldn't talk about "torture." "Do we have to have another big national debate about torture?" complains Slate's Dahlia Lithwick. "Really, do we have to?" She then offers this sledgehammer-sharp bit of analysis:

Of course, without waterboarding, Osama bin Laden might also be alive, and who knows how many Americans might be dead from unthwarted terrorist attacks, a point even Lithwick acknowledges toward the end of her piece: "I have heard that [waterboarding] may have played some very small part in a vast tangle of intelligence and surveillance and patient detective work."

Think of him instead.

But the facts don't matter. Waterboarding is "Still Stupid, Still Wrong, Still Immoral," as the headline declares. Anyone who disagrees with Lithwick is also stupid, wrong and immoral. "Let's ignore them," she urges. Would that she had followed her own advice and not written this silly and obnoxious article.

The editorialists at the New York Times, similarly, acknowledge that "there is no final answer to whether any of the prisoners tortured [sic] in President George W. Bush's illegal [sic] camps gave up information that eventually proved useful in finding Bin Laden." But again, the facts are of no importance when weighed against the Times's insufferable moral vanity: "Even if it were true that some tidbit was blurted out by a prisoner while being tormented by C.I.A. interrogators, that does not remotely justify Mr. Bush's decision to violate the law and any acceptable moral standard."

Lithwick and the Times editorialists have a small fraction of a point. We'd be happy not to have this debate if the other side would let the subject drop. Not only is it not doing so, but the Obama administration has not given up the idea of criminally prosecuting the interrogators, reports:

Our friend Debra Burlingame, whose brother was the pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, tried to raise the matter with the president at Ground Zero yesterday. She tells Fox what happened:

Classy guy. has excerpts from an interview CIA Director Leon Panetta gave NBC's Brian Williams:

Reuters reports that Attorney General Eric Holder, in testimony before the Senate Judiciary committee Wednesday, said that bin Laden's killing "was justified as an act of national self-defense." If Holder can raise such a defense before Congress, surely the interrogators could do so at a trial. It would be revealing to see them call Panetta to testify that their work might have been responsible for the killing of bin Laden and the saving of American lives.

But it shouldn't come to that. The interrogators do not deserve to be hounded for the "crime" of having served their country. If Holder doesn't drop the investigation, Obama should drop him. If the administration and its supporters really want to end the debate over "torture," they can easily do so by following the advice of the Washington Post's Marc Thiessen and acknowledging that the other side may be right.

Politicians as Role Models Here's a telling juxtaposition of headlines: "Defining Moment of Barack Obama's Presidency?" (, Tuesday), and "OBL's Death: A Defining Moment for Young Americans?" (Associated Press, Wednesday).

The Politico story describes a triumphant mood in the administration:

But the AP's tone toward young Americans is condescending:

Could it be that young people are taking their cue from political leaders who, while older, do not seem terribly mature?

Käse-Eating Surrender Monkeys Der Spiegel interviews one Herfried Münkler, a snotty German political scientist who is put off by the scenes of Americans celebrating Osama bin Laden's death:

We guess what he's saying is that it isn't like the Nuremberg rallies or anything.

You're Just Saying He's Green Because He's Black By ordering the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, President Obama "has demolished the notion that he cannot make tough decisions or cares primarily about the nation's image abroad," the New York Times editorializes.

Diminished perhaps, but "demolished" seems laughably hyperbolic. And the Times is not confident enough in this view to refrain from playing the race card yet again:

As we noted Tuesday, this bizarre obsession with race cannot be fully understood without treating it as a psychological symptom. Increasingly a liberal is someone who looks at an inkblot and sees only that it is black.

'They Talk About Me Like a Dog'

Osama Imitates Obama

I Shot the Sharif "Split Seen Between bin Laden, Deputy"--headline, The Wall Street Journal, May 6

The Cola War on Terror "Bin Laden Aides Said to Have Bought Orders of Pepsi, Coke"--headline, Bloomberg, May 4

The Odds Were 100% "U.S. Commandos Knew bin Laden Likely Would Die"--headline, Reuters, May 2

Out on a Limb "The Post-bin Laden Outlook? Anybody's Guess"--headline,, May 5

We Blame Global Warming "Bill Richardson: Osama bin Laden's Death Changes Climate on Energy"--headline,, May 4

Other Than That, the Story Was Accurate "An article on Saturday about a dispute over whether Harper Lee, the author of 'To Kill a Mockingbird,' cooperated with the author of a coming book about her misstated the history of interviews given by Ms. Lee. She spoke with a New York Times writer for an article in 2006; it has not been 45 years since she has granted a public interview."--correction, New York Times, May 4

With DNC in Mind, City Bans Carrying Urine, Feces

Read Full Article »

Latest On Twitter

Follow Real Clear Politics

Real Clear Politics Video

More RCP Video Highlights »