Don’t Get Me Started, Regulars and Shorts

Don’t Get Me Started: Good News, Bad News, Waterboardgate

By John deJong

Waterboardgate; and Good News, Bad News, Good News, Bad News.
by John deJong


Good News, Bad News, Good News, Bad News

It seems every promotion of a Utah politician to the national, or international, stage is a “good news, bad news” proposition. When Mike Leavitt went to Washington to be George Bush’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Utah lost a governor who did little more than rubberstamp the crazy goings-on at the Utah legislature. He was replaced by Olene Walker, one of the more compassionate governors the state has ever had, who stood up to the legislature-good news. But America gained another Bush administration yes man-bad news.

Barack Obama’s choice of Gover­nor Jon Huntsman as the next Ambassador to China is a brilliant move. Huntsman is probably the most qualified person for the job that is arguably the most important diplomatic post in the world-good news. And there’s no better grooming for a Republican presidential candidate. Good news? Bad news?

On the other hand, Utah loses a progressive, if not liberal, governor, to be replaced by a Utah County Republican who could very well, if it weren’t illegal, sit in cahoots with the Republican caucuses in the legislature and pass all sorts of bad laws-punitive immigration laws, gutting public education and massive corporate welfare come to mind-and that’s bad news.

On the other hand, a year of Governor Herbert could be a disaster that may very well galvanize an effec­tive Democratic challenge-more good news. While Bob Springmeyer waged a valiant battle last year, he really didn’t have a chance against a centrist Republican like Huntsman. I’ll bet Herbert has (or can lay his hands on) enough “free speech money” -er, I mean “campaign contributions”-to deter any serious Republican primary challenges. So Democrats may have a real shot at the governor’s mansion in 2010.

Herbert faces the difficult task of walking the fine line between inviting a viable Democratic challenge by being too reactionary, and alienating the right-wing whackos by not being reactionary enough. It’s hard to tell which way he’ll go. The former Utah County commissioner’s biggest splashes have been made championing survival supplies and workshops and refusing to do anything about campaign ethics complaints in his role as the overseer of elections. I’ve got to wonder if his support of survival workshops reflects his wish to shrink government to the point where it won’t be of any use when we really need it-bad news.

On the good news side, there’s still time to get your 72-hour kit before the rush. Don’t wait till the last minute.

Better yet, donate whatever a 72-hour kit would cost to your favorite Dem contender for governor when the time is right.


House Minority Leader John Boehner (R. Ohio) is trying to make a case for absolving the Bush administration and the CIA of illegal torture by claiming that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was fully briefed on the “enhanced interrogation” techniques used on Al Queda suspects in 2002, when she was chair of the Senate Intelligence committee.

The CIA, whose motto should be “plausible deniability” for its vaunted ability to eliminate fingerprints and witnesses to its actions, now finds itself with a deniable plausibility problem. The CIA claims to have fully briefed Pelosi and other congressional leaders on its use of torture techniques on captured Al Queda operatives, including waterboarding. While CIA records show four meetings with Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Bob Graham in 2002, Graham’s records and recollection reflect only one meeting.

The CIA operator’s manual surely offers techniques for misstatement, misinterpretation and falsifying records. It would come as no surprise to find they’ve used some of these techniques to mislead unsympathetic members of Congress. Or sympathetic members, for that matter; who knows what b.s. they’re feeding Boehner, but I bet he believes it. Talk about believable gullibility.

Maybe the biggest surprise is that the dirty waterboarding secret became public in the first place. But that’s what is supposed to happen in a democracy. It’s also what happens when lots of people share a secret. Congressional intelligence briefings are exercises in not telling too many people the CIA’s secrets. For the most sensitive information only the party leaders in each house are briefed-that’s four out of 535 members of the House and Senate. In less sensitive cases, intelligence committee chairs are also briefed, which is where Pelosi comes in. If it’s on the evening news, the entire committee is briefed.

Herein lies largest part of the problem: Briefing one or two members of each party does not constitute “consulting with Congress” in any democratically meaningful sense. Pelosi (one of possibly two or three Democrats briefed on the in­terrogations at that point) is accused of not explicitly asking if waterboarding was one of the “enhanced interrogation” techniques used on al Queda captives. Congres­sional briefings shouldn’t be a game of Twenty Questions, with CIA officials smugly slinking away if a Congressional member doesn’t guess what’s really going on.

I’ll bet Nancy Pelosi seldom misses a trick but in the briefing in 2002 she was told far less than the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Everyone in the Bush administration from Dick Cheney down knew about waterboarding. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez and the Director of Central Intelligence, literally dozens, if not hundreds of people knew more about the enhanced interrogation techniques than Pelosi did.

The Republican party’s public tarring and feathering of Nancy Pelosi for doing nothing about the Bush administration’s use of waterboarding is disingenuous, to say the least.

Perhaps the only truth from the CIA came from the silence that issued from its spokesman George Little when he declined to respond directly to Pelosi’s blunt accusation that the CIA had lied to her and other lawmakers.

John deJong is the associate publisher of CATALYST.

This article was originally published on May 29, 2009.