Occasional blogging, mostly of the long-form variety.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Stewart Takes On Thiessen

Marc Thiessen, a former speech writer for Rumsfeld and Bush, has been playing torture apologist since at least January 2009, but has gained prominence recently with a book and a columnist gig at The Washington Post. (Yes, The Washington Post fired Dan Froomkin, who fact-checked and debunked Thiessen, as well as WaPo columnist and torture apologist Charles Krauthammer - and then the WaPo hired Thiessen.) Marc Thiessen's main arguments are the same as that of John Yoo, the Cheneys and most other torture apologists: You're all going to die horribly in a terrorist attack if we don't start torturing people again and You're all going to die horribly in a terrorist attack if you dare investigate, let alone prosecute, any of the people responsible for torture. These in turn rest on another key falsehood: Torture "works" (for accurate intel better than non-coercive techniques) and saved America! Thiessen hasn't been the cleverest of torture apologists, but he's been one of the more zealous ones (at least with a Beltway pedigree).

As I mentioned at the end of this post, Thiessen wrote an op-ed defending Liz Cheney's McCarthyite attack ad. Steve Benen links some key debunks of Thiessen, and Scott Horton and David Luban also wrote good pieces on it. Meanwhile, Matthew Alexander has provided one of the definitive takedowns of Thiessen's book.

Thiessen ventured onto The Daily Show, where Jon Stewart took him on. First up, here's The Daily Show's segment on the Liz Cheney attack ad:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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Here's part one of the extended interview with Thiessen. Be warned he's pretty loathsome:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Exclusive - Marc Thiessen Extended Interview Pt. 1
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Here's Part 2 and Part 3.

Almost everything Thiessen says is false. I want to devote a long post to him at some point, but the links at the start provide some valuable fact-checking and debunking. I also think he comes off as extremely whiny. The man has a column in a major paper for a platform, and talks for long stretches, yet he complains he can't speak when Stewart has the audacity to object to his false and questionable statements. Stewart's pretty good here, and I think watching this interview, along with Stewart's extended interview with torture apologist Cliff May, is pretty good training for anyone who has to face off with a torture apologist. Can you spot the lies? Can you call them out? Most importantly, can you reject the framework they offer? We need a full investigation into the torture regime.

I think Thiessen's both a hack and a zealot, like Liz Cheney, but less smooth and smart in his hackery. He's aware enough of the legal jeopardy his former colleagues are in to insist that torture isn't torture. He cherry-picks his "facts," and often misrepresents them, as when he grossly misrepresents Jennifer Daskal's stance on prisoners accused of being terrorists. But listen to his arguments. As Stewart points out, he's absolutely certain (or at least sells himself as such). All his "evidence" for torture working is hearsay from people in legal jeopardy for committing war crimes. Yet as he has in other interviews, he belligerantly insists that these are "facts." At first, he refuses to say whether it's even possible that something other than torture could have worked to obtain evidence (keep in mind that everything Thiessen says about torture saving the day has been heavily challenged or proven false). By the end, he's insisting that he knows non-coercive techniques wouldn't work.

Of course, Marc Thiessen knows very little about torture and interrogation, and he doesn't want to know. He's extremely partisan, and an eager propagandist. Stewart does a good job with him overall, and this skewering is better than nothing, but torture shouldn't only be "debated" by a hack and a (very sharp) comic on a comedy show. Rather than Thiessen, we need Dick Cheney, David Addington, Rumsfeld, Yoo and the rest questioned under oath by people like Scott Horton, David Luban and Dahlia Lithwick. It's harder to lie under oath. And it's harder to offer bullshit when a paper trail and sharp, conscientious lawyers challenge it.

 

2 comments:

Fran said...

I don't have the time to watch the whole Thiessen interview right now but I am also not sure I have the stomach.

Holy Shiite!

Seriously - he is such a (wow coincidentally an NPR story is airing on the Al Queda 7 as I type this) anyway, Thiessen is disgusting... and slick.

He has created quite a stir in Catholic circles because of his rationalization of torture on (blech) EWTN. Again - not unlike Mukasey and other conservatives who came out against him, *numerous* conservative Catholics have risen up over this.

I will watch the rest later.

It is so astounding. And Stewart -damn, he brings the goods to the table.

Suzan said...

I just saw this, and it was stomach churning. (Jon was superb IMHO.)

But - this is teh kickoff for the "Defend Everything They Have Done" tour and they will only turn up the volume.

Yes. He wasn't only whiny, but he continued to say he never got a chance to talk when he dominated the conversation.

Typical.

And we've got to do a pretty good job to keep these people from dominating the whole public conversation from now until the next election (because this will be their job, you know).

Thanks for all you do for us!

S

Of course, Marc Thiessen knows very little about torture and interrogation, and he doesn't want to know. He's extremely partisan, and an eager propagandist.
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