Date: Fri May 01 2009 - 19:47:18 EDT
Host of The Young Turks
Posted April 30, 2009 | 11:33 PM (EST)
Condi Rice Pulls A Nixon: When the President Does It, That Means It is Not
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Read More: Condoleezza Rice, Illegal, Precedent, Richard Nixon, Stanford
Speech, Torture, UN Convention Against Torture, Video, Waterboarding,
Condoleezza Rice was recently speaking at Stanford when students asked her
an excellent question on waterboarding and torture. They have her answer on
tape and it isn't pretty. Condi Rice absolutely pulls a Nixon.
Here are the relevant quotes:
"The president instructed us that nothing we would do would be outside
of our obligations, legal obligations under the Convention Against
Nothing we would do? Nothing? As I ask in the video above, what would
happen if the president authorized you to murder someone, would it still
not be illegal?
Next up, Condoleezza Rice denies any personal responsibility:
"I didn't authorize anything. I conveyed the authorization of the
administration to the agency, that they had policy authorization, subject
to the Justice Department's clearance. That's what I did."
Oh I see, she just conveyed the authorization. And how is that different
than giving the authorization?
By the way, lest we forget she "conveyed" the authorization for
waterboarding, which has been considered torture and illegal under any and
all treaties and laws of the United States. That is exactly why this is a
legal hot potato that no one wants to get stuck holding at the end of the
day. Here she pushes the blame on to two different entities - President
Bush and the Justice Department.
Now, the final coup de grace - once the president authorized it, it became
"The United States was told, we were told, nothing that violates our
obligations under the Convention Against Torture, and so by definition, if
it was authorized by the president, it did not violate our obligations
under the Convention Against Torture." (emphasis added)
That is as close as you can get to Richard Nixon's infamous comment, "When
the president does it, that means it is not illegal."
This is why I say these people don't understand the whole concept behind
America. In our system of government, the president is not supposed to be
above the law. He is not a king; his word is not the law. The president can
violate the law and when he does, he is supposed to be held accountable.
That is supposed to be one of the pillars of our democracy.
Look at what she said: "[B]y definition, if it was authorized by the
president, it did not violate our obligations under the Convention Against
Torture." Does that mean the president can authorize any kind of torture
under the Convention Against Torture?
If someone doesn't do something about this dangerous idea it will do more
damage than the torture itself. Yes, the torture damaged our reputation
across the world, helped terrorists recruit fighters against us, endangered
our soldiers and sullied the name of America. But if this precedent - that
the president can authorize anything and make it legal "by definition" - is
allowed to stand, then our whole form of government is in jeopardy.
A violation of the law is, of course, a big deal, especially on something
this grave and important. This is not a jaywalking ticket. There were 34
suspected or confirmed homicides of detainees, some clearly due to torture.
It does not get any more serious than this. But what is even worse is if
you set the precedent that violations of the law like this will not have
any consequences. That is bigger than the crime itself.
The precedent does more damage than the law breaking because it sets the
new boundaries and rules for our government. It confirms what Rice and
Nixon argue for: When the president does it, that means it is not illegal.
Allowing that idea to stand unchallenged does far more damage to the
republic than any one crime committed by any one person (or the prosecution
thereof), even if that person is the president.
Watch The Young Turks Here
UPDATE -- The Stanford student who taped this, Reyna Garcia, will join us
for an interview on our show tonight at 7:20PM ET. One small upside for
those of us who think that the people who "conveyed" the authorization for
torture should be held responsible is that hopefully they'll be showered by
questions like these wherever they go for the rest of their lives. The
infamy has begun for them.
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