It's hard to grasp how the US Senate, especially the Democrats, can be so weak, so cowardly, and so stupid.
Recently they approved Michael Mukasey as the new Attorney General, despite his unwillingness to answer a simple question about the legality of torture. Asked whether "waterboarding" is illegal, he refused to answer.As the International Herald Tribune put it so well: "It was not a difficult question. Waterboarding is specifically banned by the Army Field Manual, and it is plainly illegal under the federal Anti-Torture Act, federal assault statutes, the Detainee Treatment Act, the Convention Against Torture and the Geneva Conventions. It is hard to see how any nominee worthy of the position of attorney general could fail to answer 'yes.'" (IHT, Nov 11, 2007)
There really is a right and wrong answer on this one. America prides itself on its claims to freedom and liberty. It is also plainly failing to live up to its values on this issue.
My recent visit to three Arab countries reminded me that charges of hypocrisy are central to the low regard of America in the Arab world. No one admires it when Saudi Arabia locks up political dissidents, but the Saudi regime makes no pretensions to civil rights or democracy. When the US adopts similar practices, it is not just its actions but also its hypocrisy that tears into the American image.
It would be bad enough if this was just a matter of bad policy; it also seems like bad politics. The Financial Times reports that Dianne Feinstein, a Democratic senator whose support for Mr Mukasey was crucial, made clear that she had voted for him in part because "Mr Bush had threatened that if Mr Mukasey were rejected, he would not provide another nominee." (FT, Nov. 6) The fact that the Senate Democrats can be bullied around by Bush so easily -- still, after 7 years -- is appalling.
Democrats hope that if and when they seize the White House in 2008, all will be well in the world. Think again. Unless they learn to wield power responsibly, America's reputation will continue to suffer.