“small potatoes” …

Posted on Saturday 28 June 2008

A House Judiciary subcommittee summoned David S. Addington out of the shadows yesterday in an attempt to get the vice president’s furtive chief enforcer to enlighten the public about how the United States came to embrace torture as a valid interrogation technique.

But the accomplished puppet master showed he can shroud himself in obscurity even under the klieg lights. The only thing Addington made clear was his contempt for the members of Congress and their questions.

He and fellow witness John Yoo, the main author of what’s become known as the torture memo, offered nothing but non-answers. Their refusal to acknowledge as illegal abhorrent conduct that is beyond the pale even for this administration — such as torturing a detainee’s child or burying a detainee alive — suggested that their only goal yesterday was to say absolutely nothing of any substance whatsoever, no matter what they were asked. That or their souls are entirely hollow. Or both…

Democrats in Congress are still reeling over the lip they got yesterday from the Bush administration’s key experts on torture. Vice President Dick Cheney chief of staff David Addington was so disdainful that some are wondering if he can be prosecuted for lying to Congress.

"Of all the hearings I’ve attended since I started serving on the Judiciary Committee four years ago, I have never felt more strongly that a witness was lying," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said in an interview. "At the end of the day I’m not sure how much we can do – we can’t prove what he says he doesn’t recollect."

The Judiciary Committee is looking into whether former Justice Department official John Yoo’s claim of executive privilege will fly. In the meantime, key clips of Addington’s snarky responses to members of Congress are making the highlight reels.

Wasserman Schultz questioned Addington about his visits to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, asking whether he discussed interrogation techniques with officials there.

Addington said he did not recall:
    "It is hard to fathom you would not have recollections on specific conversations on types of interrogations methods," Wasserman Schultz said.
    "Is there a questioned appended, ma’am?" Addington said.
    "I don’t believe that you do not recall whether you discussed specific interrogation methods. So I will ask you again."
    "As I said to you," Addington said, "I don’t recall."
con·tempt   \kÉ™n-ˈtem(p)t\
Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin contemptus, from contemnere
Date: 14th century

1a: the act of despising : the state of mind of one who despises : disdain b: lack of respect or reverence for something
2: the state of being despised
3: willful disobedience to or open disrespect of a court, judge, or legislative body <contempt of court>

I’m having some trouble adapting to David Addington’s testimony too. It’s hard for me to imagine being that contemptuous of the elected officials in the government you work for. We know what a low opinion this Administration has of Congress. We know they blame all things on Congress, even though they’ve been "rubber-stamped" for six of their seven and a half years in office. We hear it from Cheney frequently. We see it in his snarls. But Addington’s open hostility and disdain takes the cake. He stands before us with a chip on his shoulder, asking us to knock it off so he can have the opportunity to spit venom in all directions. In spite of his self-righteousness, I agree with Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz. I think he was frequently lying about his level of involvement in the process of creating the Torture Memos and their execution.

Addington’s obviously bristling for a fight. There are times when dealing with a bully that the right thing to do is pass on an invitation to fight. There are other times, when the right thing to do is square off, ignore the intimidation and disdain, and beat the holy shit out of the guy. My gut says that he needs to be engaged, but I question my response. I worry that it’s simply a reaction to his extreme level of provocation. I would prefer to take on his boss, Dick Cheney. David Addington is, in spite of his own inflated sense of self worth, "small potatoes."

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