Yesterday Sean Hannity committed on live TV to being waterboarded for charity. The exchange was an odd one and I give Charles Grodin credit for taking the conversation there but more notable I think than Hannity's tough guy acceptance of a challenge he'll never go through with is Hannity's rhetorical gymnastics:
GRODIN: You're for torture.
HANNITY: I am for enhanced interrogation.
GRODIN: You don't believe it's torture. Have you ever been waterboarded?
HANNITY: No, but Ollie North has.
GRODIN: Would you consent to be waterboarded? We can waterboard you?
GRODIN: Are you busy on Sunday?
HANNITY: I'll do it for charity. I'll let you do it. I'll do it for the troops' families.
"Last week, they released these memos outlining torture techniques. That was clearly a political decision and ignored the advice of their Director of National Intelligence and their CIA director," Boehner said at a press conference in the Capitol.
The techniques discussed include waterboarding, slamming detainees into walls, and depriving them of sleep for up to 11 days.
D'oh! When asked about this unintentional slip of truth, a Boehner spokesman replaced the "T"-word with the "L"-word:
...Boehner spokesman Michael Steel writes, "It is clear from the context that Boehner was simply using liberals' verbiage to describe these interrogation techniques. The United States does not torture."
Well, no, not anymore we don't.
The fact that Boehner is on the defensive about torture is the latest sign that the right is losing the message war on torture. Another: even self-described Democratic moderate Claire McCaskill has put the impeachment of Jay Bybee on the table and today signaled an openness in congress to investigations into the use of torture.
Update [2009-4-23 15:8:59 by Todd Beeton]:Oh yeah, and still another sign: Shepherd Smith went off on torture as being un-American right there on FoxNews. How long you give him?
The 2010 Census makes a convenient political target since its findings define so much of where federal aid - now the country's one true growth industry - is apportioned as well as legislative seats in both states and nationally. Yet after an abortive attempt to hijack the Census by narrowly focused Democratic groups, cooler heads prevailed in the White House. Now the danger to the integrity of the Census is coming from the other direction: the right-wing of the Republican Party.
You might think a subject as dry as the Census could not generate much emotion, but never underestimate the power of numbers. In fact, the coming fight in the Congress over the 2010 Census is a metaphor for the identity of the two political parties in our country. Everyone knows that each year America is becoming a more diverse country in terms of the ethnicity, race, religion, and ancestry of the people who live here. You can deal with it, or try to deny it. Nothing makes this point clearer than your position on the Census.
When the Republicans in the House and Senate object to using modern statistical methods to reach an accurate accounting of nation's population, it is a statement of denial of who we are as a country.
Ryan, the ranking Republican on the budget committee, plans to introduce a detailed substitute amendment for the Democrats' spending plan next Wednesday -- and still intends to do so.
But he and Cantor were reportedly told by Boehner and Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (R-Ind.) they needed to move more quickly to counter Democrats' charge they were becoming the "Party of No," according to House GOP staffers.
The 19-page document, prepared by Pence's office, was distributed two days after President Obama criticized Republicans for trashing his detail-crammed 142-page budget outline without producing a credible alternative.
As a result, not only do we have a self-inflicted Republican PR disaster, but we have some nice internal under-the-bus throwing among the power players involved on the side:
"In his egocentric rush to get on camera, Mike Pence threw the rest of the Conference under the bus, specifically Paul Ryan, whose staff has been working night and day for weeks to develop a substantive budget plan," said a GOP aide heavily involved in budget strategy.
"I hope his camera time was gratifying enough to justify erasing the weeks of hard work by dozens of Republicans to put forth serious ideas," the person added.
"It's categorically untrue," said Pence spokesman Matt Lloyd. "Cantor as well as Ryan and the rest of the leadership have been part of this process for weeks. They not only signed off on it, but their staffs helped edit it. [...]
Still, when he was asked what purpose today's preview served, Ryan directed me to Pence's office: "You've got to ask the conference this question, I can't answer that question."
My favorite takedown of Pence is from Yglesias who skewers him:
I've been saying this for a while now, but something people need to understand about the current state of American politics is that Rep Mike Pence (R-IN) is not a smart man. He lacks intelligence. He's been able to rise into the House leadership and even somehow acquire a reputation as a policy thinker of the right larger because it's extraordinarily rare for the media to ask a politician to answer a question about a policy issue. But when Pence is asked to do this--as Norah O'Donnell did below--he's completely unable to deal with it.
Here's Pence and Norah O'Donnell who ended up asking Pence a gotcha question in spite of herself:
But the reaction of the usually mild mannered Contessa Brewer on MSNBC might be my favorite schadenfreude-inducing video of the day:
Update [2009-3-27 3:55:57 by Todd Beeton]:Here's more from Rachel on the GOP taking the president's bait.