Wednesday, November 10, 2010

“They Said I Could”

I’ve pretty much stayed out of the details of George W. Bush’s memoirs as he goes around the country on his book tour (including Miami), but this snippet caught my attention.

Former President George W. Bush was asked during an interview last night why he believes waterboarding is legal.

“Because the lawyer said it was,” Bush said. “He said it did not fall within the Anti-Torture Act. I’m not a lawyer, but you gotta trust the judgment of people around you and I do.”

Aside from the fact that waterboarding is not legal — it’s torture and we prosecuted people as war criminals for doing it during World War II — even if it was, just because the lawyers said it was okay doesn’t make it right. It’s pretty clear that the Bush administration went out and lawyer-shopped until they found folks like John Yoo who could come up with a justification for committing war crimes in the name of fighting terrorism and couching it in the Nixonian idea that when the President does it, it’s not illegal. That’s the excuse of a dictatorship.

Mr. Bush seems very proud of his ability to make decisions quickly and not stew over them once he’s made them. He — and his minions — seem to think that’s an asset and they look down their noses at people like Barack Obama who actually consider all sides and consequences of a situation. They call it “decisiveness” (the former president might call it “decisioning”). But leadership isn’t about that; it’s about doing the right thing, not just the legal thing. And Mr. Bush, who can’t help but sound somewhat adolescent in his invoking of “they said I could,” comes across less as a leader of a nation but as a vindictive and intemperate thug who isn’t above committing a war crime.