Yesterday's surprise dust-up in the senate, during which three key Republicans openly questioned Mr. Bushie's demands for an expanded definition of "interrogation" regarding the detainees at Gitmo, smacks of political theater. Yeah, these senators, including self-proclaimed "maverick" John McCain, may indeed have some qualms about Bush's intentions. But it still feels like a smokescreen, a demonstration designed to prove that, yes, the Republicans have hearts and care about the constitution--right before the body of the senate goes ahead and gives the president exacly what he wants.
All the president is asking for is congressional approval to go ahead and contnue what he's already doing in the first place, to give some sort of official imprimatur to the unfettered power he's already seized. If congress signs off on torture and warrantless wiretaps, Bush is no longer an imperial president; with even more power granted him, expect him to rule with the wisdom and sanity of Caligula.
Why he wants this, I don't know. James Bond villains don't want world domination this nakedly. Bush has been claiming in recent weeks that the expanded powers he's asking for are part of the war on terror, that it's all about "keepin' America safe." (Dropped g courtesy of our folksy Decider-In-Chief.) He's claimed that CIA-run secret prisons (the very existence of which he denied until now) and illegal wiretaps have yielded tons o' info, have busted up numerous terrorist plots, but has been provided zero details. Given that this administration has never been shy when it comes to hyping details of alleged terror plots--Remember those guys that they claimed were plotting to blow up the Sears Tower, but who really seemed more interested in dressing like Welcome To The Terrordome-era Public Enemy?--the president's claims begin to seem like lies.
Lies told by a madman, a dangerous lunatic who amasses power for its own sake, who struts around the world stage, preening, arrogant, despised, but confident in his ability to silence any and all who oppose him, Idi Amin on a global level. Even more terrifying than Bush's behavior, or the bullying of his subordinates, or the sychophantic fawnings of his lackeys in the press (that would be you, David Brooks) is the nation's response: We're letting this happen.
As the president is fond of saying, history will judge us. On that point, at least, I'm sure he's right.