Yesterday, NBC Meet the Press host David Gregory interviewed Jordan's King Abduallah and asked him whether he believed the U.S. tortured detainees. "Well, from what we've seen and what we've heard, there are enough accounts to show that this is the case," Abdullah said. Gregory pressed:
DAVID GREGORY: That's an important point. You actually do believe that the United States engaged in torture.
KING ABDULLAH: What I see on the press [base ']Ä¶ shows that there were illegal ways of dealing with detainees.
In an interview with Chip Reid on CBS's Washington Unplugged yesterday, former White House press secretary Dana Perino attacked the Obama administration for its consideration of a truth commission to investigate President Bush's torture program. An investigation would be a "political witch hunt," Perino said, claiming the interrogation program was actually "safe, effective, and legal."
When asked if she thinks waterboarding is torture, Perino tried to dodge the question, claiming she had simply never weighed in on the matter:
PERINO: What more is there to investigate? Unless they are on a political witch hunt. ... Look, none of us want to talk about interrogation techniques. They are unpleasant for a reason --
Q: Well, they are not just unpleasant. Do you believe waterboarding is torture?
PERINO: I have never answered that question because I don't know what I would have done in that situation, if I had to protect thousands of lives.
"Well you're leaving open the possibility that it is [torture]," Reid noted. Watch it:
Except Perino has weighed in on the issue, and all indications are that she has said that waterboarding is not torture. When repeatedly pressed by reporters on whether the Bush administration tortured, Perino consistently and robotically responded, "We do not torture." She uttered the phrase until the very end of her tenure, well after the CIA publicly admitted in February 2008 to waterboarding three detainees:
-- "Let me just make sure it's clear, and I'll say it on the record one more time, that it has never been the policy of this President or this administration to torture." [1/14/09]
It's unclear why Perino is trying to dodge the question of whether waterboarding is torture given that she has clearly rendered her verdict on the matter multiple times. Perhaps she now realizes she wasn't being truthful when she was flacking for Bush's torture program.
Update Contradicting claims by conservatives that the Bush torture program yielded valuable information, McClatchy reports: "The CIA inspector general in 2004 found that there was no conclusive proof that waterboarding or other harsh interrogation techniques helped the Bush administration thwart any 'specific imminent attacks,' according to recently declassified Justice Department memos."
Yesterday, former Colin Powell chief of staff Larry Wilkerson told Rachel Maddow that there are "six or seven, maybe even eight lawyers" from the Bush administration -- including Jay Bybee -- who should be "disbarred" for approving torture. "As far as going after leaders like Richard Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld," Wilkerson said, "I just don`t think there's the political will, and if there is, I don't think there`s political skill to do it." When Maddow pointed out that the public does support torture accountability, Wilkerson said, "then let's do it":
MADDOW: I'm with you on political skill. The question about whether or not it can be handled well. It seems like the political will may follow the public will, and if the polling data recently is anything to go by, the public is sort of all about seeking investigations at least, if not prosecutions in this case.
WILKERSON: And that's what our country is all about, and if that's the case, then let's do it.
Earlier this month, hate radio host Rush Limbaugh brought attention to the fact that the hijackers of the Maersk Alabama ship were "black Muslim teenagers." "Now, just imagine the hue and cry had a Republican president ordered the shooting of black teenagers on the high seas," said Limbaugh, later joking, "If only President Obama had known that the three Somali community organizers are actually young black Muslim teenagers, I'm sure he wouldn't have given the order to shoot." Yesterday, Shane Murphy, the second-in-command of the Maersk, returned home and sharply criticized Limbaugh's remarks:
"It feels great to be home," Murphy said. "With the exception of Rush Limbaugh who is trying to make this into a race issue. It's disgusting."
"The president did the right thing. It's a war. It's about good versus evil. And what you (Limbaugh) said is evil, that is hate speech. I won't tolerate it," Murphy said.
Gov. Rick Perry today in a precautionary measure requested the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide 37,430 courses of antiviral medications from the Strategic National Stockpile to Texas to prevent the spread of swine flu. Currently, three cases of swine flu have been confirmed in Texas.
According to a recent DailyKos/Research 2000 poll, "37% of Texans and 51% of Lone Star Republicans agree with Gov. Rick Perry[base ']Äôs recent suggestion that Texas may need to leave the United States. ... Imagine the outcries of patriotism (or lack thereof) if Massachusetts or New York hinted at secession during the Bush years," writes NBC's Mark Murray. And imagine how Texas would deal with the swine flu without federal assistance.
An ABC News poll released this morning shows that a vast majority -- 69 percent -- of Americans approve of President Obama and 72 percent view him favorably, "the best job approval rating at this point in 20 years, [and] the broadest personal popularity since Ronald Reagan." Fifty percent now say the United States is headed in the right direction, up 31 points since the end of the Bush administration, when only 19 percent thought the country was on the right track. Other figures from the poll:
-- "Fifty-eight percent approve of Obama's work on the economy."
-- "Obama leads the Republicans in Congress in trust to handle the economy by a garish 61-24 percent."
-- "A remarkable 90 percent say Obama is 'willing to listen to different points of view'; fewer than half said that about George W. Bush."
-- Seventy-seven "percent call Obama a strong leader, nearly matching Bush's best a few months after 9/11."
A majority supported Obama's decision to release the torture memos, but only 49 percent support his blanket ban on torture. That said, a majority still favors holding investigations into the Bush administration's use of torture.
Update Politico reports that anger is building in the GOP base. "There is a sense of rebellion brewing," said Katon Dawson, the outgoing South Carolina Republican Party chairman, who cited unexpectedly high attendance at anti-tax [base ']Äútea parties[base ']Äù last week.