Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mr. President, Don't Let Former Bush Officials "Take You For a Buggy Ride"

For those readers who are not familiar with the old expression -  "taken for a buggy ride," let me explain. The expression means basically to be fooled or played for a sucker. The first time I heard this expression used was in the wonderful Frank Capra movie "It Happened One Night". In that movie when Clark Gable's character met the father of Claudette Colbert's character, he was under the mistaken belief that Colbert didn't love him and that she had just been playing him for a sucker. The father, unlike Gable's character, knew full well that his daughter really did love Gable.

Here is some of the dialogue from that delightful scene:

Gable: Did anybody ever make a sucker out of you? 

It's a matter of principle. You probably wouldn't understand. 

When anybody takes me for a buggy ride, I don't like paying for the privilege. 

Father: Were you taken for a buggy ride? 

Gable: Yes. With all the trimmings. 

Now what  does being taken for a "buggy ride" have to do with President Obama?

In today's Wall Street Journal they're reporting that there are still "top officials" who don't want the public to find out all of the details in the Bush interrogation tactic memos, even though Obama has promised that in his administration we will have transparency in government.


The Obama administration is leaning toward keeping secret some graphic details of tactics allowed in Central Intelligence Agency interrogations, despite a push by some top officials to make the information public, according to people familiar with the discussions.These people cautioned that President Barack Obama is still reviewing internal arguments over the release of Justice Department memorandums related to CIA interrogations, and how much information will be made public is in flux.

A decision to keep secret key parts of the three 2005 memos outlining legal guidance on CIA interrogations would anger some Obama supporters who have pushed him to unveil now-abandoned Bush-era tactics. It would also go against the views of Attorney General Eric Holder and White House Counsel Greg Craig, people familiar with the matter said. Top CIA officials have spoken out strongly against a full release, saying it would undermine the agency's credibility with foreign intelligence services and hurt the agency's work force, people involved in the discussions said. However,Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair favors releasing the information, current and former senior administration officials said.

Reading between the lines of the WSJ story it's pretty clear that the "top officials" in question are former Bush officials still at the CIA,  the guilible Mr. Panetta, former Bush officials outside the administration and most likely former Bush CIA official and now Deputy National-Security Adviser, John Brennan. 

So what we have here are Bush holdovers and other Bush officials, who were involved in the Bush torture operation, that are now trying to take Obama for the same good old fashioned buggy ride that the easily fooled Mr. Panetta has obviously already taken because he's now arguing that the CIA should not be held accountable for torture. Yeah, they're trying to play him for a sucker, all right. Look at what the WSJ says about their arguments for why Obama shouldn't release the full memos.
Intelligence officials also believe that making the techniques public would give al Qaeda a propaganda tool just as the administration is stepping up its fight against the terrorist group in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Some former administration officials have also argued that releasing all the memos could help terrorists train to endure the most extreme interrogation techniques.
People familiar with the matter said some senior intelligence advisers to the president raised fears that releasing the two most sensitive memos could cause the Obama administration to be alienated from the CIA's rank and file, as happened during the Bush administration when Porter Goss, who was unpopular among CIA officers, headed the agency.
For them to say that releasing these memos would provide Al Qaeda with a propaganda tool is simply outrageous. Releasing memos that officially confirm what we already know about interrogation techniques, and that incidently we aren't even supposedly using anymore, won't help Al Qaeda but it sure worries those high officials who are concerned about being prosecuted for their own role in the Bush torture program. And if those specious arguments they made aren't bad enough, they are also cynically using the rank and file CIA as tools to manipulate a new president into buying into their little coverup.

You'll notice that each of these "reasons" they offer share one thing in common - each of them represent the same "playing the fear card" routine that former V.P. Cheney is so fond of using whenever he doesn't have a good argument to make. It's so obvious what they're doing that it's amazing that Obama would even listen to one word of it much less think that it's a valid argument worthy of being "reviewed."

I sure hope the rabid Obama supporters who cheer his every move, no matter what he does, are right and that he will actually see through this transparent attempt by former Bush officials to cover their own behinds. But I'm afraid that Obama is so enamored of the idea of bi-partisanship that instead of standing up for principle and doing what is right, that he is willing to entertain this disingenous subterfuge as a legitmate concern. My guess is that those former Bush officials probably think that too, which is why they haven't given up on trying to take him for that "buggy ride".

Update: Marc Ambinder at the Atlantic also thinks Obama is too focused on bi-partisanship.

Politically, this might be one of those situations where Obama is trying to please all his allies, when he can't possibly. So he's trying to compromise with people he wants to maintain good relations with where no compromise is possible. 

I predict that if Obama doesn't release all the memos, the left will start to really hammer him on torture proceedings, state secrets privilege and his quiet evolution on the Patriot Act. Most have held back on this front, but this will make them feel abandoned and thus less restrained.


  1. April 16, 2009

    Dear President Barack Obama:

    I've never written so someone holding your office before. It never seemed like it would matter----at all.

    I am writing to encourage you to release details associated with the CIA interrogations. You appear to be leaning against such a disclosure.

    This is of particular importance to me as a psychologist as I have been active in the American Psychological Association as re: military psychologists' participation in these activities-----which APA continues to cover up.

    A signal from you regarding an increase in transparency would also encourage APA to 'come clean.'


    Marsha V. Hammond, PhD: Clinical Licensed Psychologist, Asheville, NC

  2. Wonderful letter!

    I can't believe that you're from my favorite city too! We love Asheville. We were there in the Fall of 2007 and actually plan on going back there for our honeymoon.

    Thanks for posting a comment today.

  3. Marsha, I just saw today that you linked to my blog. Thank you. I look forward to reading what you have on your blog soon.


* If you post using the "anonymous" profile you can still include whatever name you wish to use at the end of your comment.