Peter Wallsten writes in today’s Los Angeles Times (“McCain Held All the Cards, So Bush Folded”):
The agreement reached Thursday on legislation prohibiting the inhumane treatment of suspected terrorists in U.S. custody marked a rare capitulation by a president who campaigned for reelection based on his self-styled resolve when it came to the war on terrorism.
But it was also a recognition that, 13 months after a solid victory at the polls that seemed to put Bush’s White House in position to make transformational policy changes, the president is approaching his highest priority â€” fighting terrorism â€” from a position of political weakness.
Correction: Bush’s highest priority is the glorification of Bush.
White House officials could not avoid the sting as both GOP-controlled houses of Congress backed McCain’s proposal with veto-proof majorities, even though Bush had threatened to make the issue cause for the first veto of his presidency.
The boy’s a weenie, I tell you. He wouldn’t recognize real resolve if it bit his ass.
Analysts said Bush also could not avoid pressure from overseas, particularly from European allies who had vehemently opposed what they viewed as a U.S. administration that backed the torture of terrorist suspects. Bush needs the support of European leaders, who have expressed dismay at revelations of secret U.S. prisons around the world, for his efforts to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan and to pressure Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions.
Thursday’s agreement, experts say, marked a recognition by the White House that the U.S. image overseas mattered in world diplomacy, particularly in the aftermath of the abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the denial of U.S. court trials to detainees held at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and headlines around the world about the secret prisons. …
… Thursday’s deal demonstrated the realization that the administration’s attempts at nuance were not translating well in the court of world opinion, serving only to give critics the ability to argue that Bush backed torture after all.
Ivo H. Daalder, a foreign policy scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington and a former advisor on European issues in the Clinton administration, said the diplomatic fallout was beyond repair, particularly given the White House’s stance in recent weeks opposing a torture ban.
“The damage done is so great that even McCain winning on this particular issue is not going to be enough to get us back on track,” Daalder said.
The weenie did his best to make the capitulation seem like something else:
Bush went out of his way to illustrate his newfound closeness with his onetime opponent.
The two sat in chairs in front of the Oval Office fireplace, a backdrop typically used for meetings with world leaders. “You’re a good man who honors the values of America,” Bush said.
Why is it so hard for Bush to figure out what those “values” are?
After each man made his remarks, the president reached out his hand.
At first, the senator didn’t notice, but Bush persisted, holding his arm in the air until McCain grasped his hand with a firm shake.
Just watch — at some point in the future, Bush will begin to speak of the torture ban as if it were his idea.