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- I have seen the bogeyman and he is us.
Even most reasonable Republicans recognize that Dick Cheney is not an admirable figure. Some of them admit to a begrudging respect for the man, but there was very little agitation to run him for president in 2008, for example. The most positive words you'll get out of most Republicans is that Cheney was a hard-hearted man who rose to power at a time when America needed a hard-hearted man in charge. And in a puffball Meet the Press interview yesterday, Cheney let the world know that he hasn't changed one bit. “There’s this notion that there’s moral equivalence between what the terrorists did and what we do, and that’s absolutely not true. We were very careful to stop short of torture," Cheney said. (Last week's 600-page report charges otherwise.) Cheney also said, "I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective," and he promised that he'd absolutely "do it again in a minute" if he had to.
Cheney is the living embodiment of post-9/11 America: When it comes to human rights, we talk a good game, but we don't like to be challenged, and if you make us think our safety is at stake, we'll do the worst things imaginable in the name of preserving our contentedness. When future generations look back on America's response to 9/11, they'll be horrified, the same way we're horrified when we look back on the Japanese internment camps. And we'll have no justification for them.
But we're certainly not there yet. A new CBS poll indicates that nearly 7 out of 10 Americans disagree with Cheney on waterboarding; they believe it is torture. Even so, almost half of all Americans think torture is justified in certain situations. The poll didn't ask which situations were justifiable to the average American, but I suspect the answer is a disheartening mix of "whenever someone tries to trample our freedoms"—whatever that means—and a completely fictional high-stakes situation like the ones you'll find in TV shows like 24. We lost our minds on 9/11 and turned into the worst version of ourselves. Over a decade later, we're still searching for our sanity. We've got a long way to go.