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Sunday, November 13, 2005

the shame 

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So when you watch the president stand there with a straight face and say, "We do not torture" - a full year and a half after the first photos from Abu Ghraib - you have to wonder how we arrived at this ludicrous moment. The answer is not complicated. When people in power get away with telling bigger and bigger lies, they naturally think they can keep getting away with it. And for a long time, Mr. Bush and his cronies did. Not anymore.

The fallout from the Scooter Libby indictment reveals that the administration's credibility, having passed the tipping point with Katrina, is flat-lining. For two weeks, the White House's talking-point monkeys in the press and Congress had been dismissing Patrick Fitzgerald's leak investigation as much ado about nothing except politics and as an exoneration of everyone except Mr. Libby. Now the American people have rendered their verdict: they're not buying it. Last week two major polls came up with the identical finding, that roughly 8 in 10 Americans regard the leak case as a serious matter. One of the polls (The Wall Street Journal/NBC News) also found that 57 percent of Americans believe that Mr. Bush deliberately misled the country into war in Iraq and that only 33 percent now find him "honest and straightforward," down from 50 percent in January.

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VICE PRESIDENT Cheney is aggressively pursuing an initiative that may be unprecedented for an elected official of the executive branch: He is proposing that Congress legally authorize human rights abuses by Americans. "Cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment of prisoners is banned by an international treaty negotiated by the Reagan administration and ratified by the United States. The State Department annually issues a report criticizing other governments for violating it. Now Mr. Cheney is asking Congress to approve legal language that would allow the CIA to commit such abuses against foreign prisoners it is holding abroad. In other words, this vice president has become an open advocate of torture.

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Not everybody took Fox News host Bill O'Reilly's on-air comments this week about terrorists bombing Coit Tower as the hyperbole that fills the talk-radio ether. One of the ticked off was San Francisco Supervisor Chris Daly, who Friday called for O'Reilly to be fired.

"For an anchor on a major station, Fox News, to be saying those kinds of things, it's just not OK," Daly said Friday. "It was just over the top."

Agreeing with Daly was San Francisco firefighters union president John Hanley, and not just because the hose-shaped tower is a tribute to firefighters.

"Who is this guy, O'Reilly?" said Hanley, who identified himself as both a third-generation San Franciscan and military veteran. "I've got guys fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. I'm a veteran myself. What's he talking about?"



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