Time for Hillary Rodham Clinton to Quit the Race
Eichengreen (1997): The Baring Crisis in a Mexican Mirror

Party of the Damned

Dan Froomkin shows us what the print Washington Post could be, if anybody working for it had any ovaries:

Party of the Damned: As the Bush presidency staggers to an end, it's hard to say who has less to brag about: the president or the journalists who cover him. So it's fitting that the last White House Correspondents' Association dinner of the Bush era -- the ultimate celebration of chumminess between the most powerful people in the world and those who are supposed to hold them accountable -- was a dispiriting, mostly humorless affair.

President Bush phoned in his appearance, uttering a few topical one-liners but leaning primarily on greatest-hits footage from previous performances -- and wrapping up with a cartoonish but crowd-pleasing "conducting" of the Marine band. Comedian Craig Ferguson essentially apologized in advance for his understated headlining performance -- a far cry from the withering diatribe delivered by Stephen Colbert two years ago.... [T]he only time he really showed teeth was to attack the no-show New York Times. "The New York Times unfortunately did not buy a table," he said. "They felt that this event 'undercuts the credibility of the press.' It's funny, you see, I thought that Jayson Blair and Judy Miller took care of that. What? . . . Did I go too far? Now let me try this: Shut the hell up, New York Times, you sanctimonious whining jerks!"...

Key members of the White House's torture-management team-- Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state Colin Powell -- along with leading torture apologists -- Attorney General Michael Mukasey, CIA Director Michael Hayden, former White House spokesman Tony Snow and current spokeswoman Dana Perino -- were fawned over as honored guests....

Watch it yourself if you dare. Here is video of the red carpet arrivals and the entire dinner. Here is the Bush performance and the Ferguson performance. Here is footage of the swampy hell that was the Bloomberg after-party.

Michael Scherer writes for Time that Bush "rose to offer C-SPAN viewers another reason to doubt political journalists' ability to be anything but cowardly suck-ups to presidential pomp. In recent years, this event has been known mainly for the fantastic performance in 2006 of Stephen Colbert, the Comedy Central host, who addressed the crowd with a withering critique of both the failures of President Bush and the media. . . . Neither the press nor the president had a rebuttal to Colbert, then or now, so he was simply not invited back and officially forgotten. Ever since, the dinner had been a far less newsworthy affair. As is tradition, the president stood to do a short stand up act, which included the retelling of an old joke about Vice President Dick Cheney watching Bush through a peephole in the Oval Office door while masturbating. Such is the state of Washington humor....

[W]hat did British actor Rupert Everett thinks about the dinner? "'Hideous,' he said flatly. 'One of the most hideous events I've ever been to.'"...

Meanwhile. . . . Mark Mazzetti writes in the New York Times: "The Justice Department has told Congress that American intelligence operatives attempting to thwart terrorist attacks can legally use interrogation methods that might otherwise be prohibited under international law. The legal interpretation, outlined in recent letters, sheds new light on the still-secret rules for interrogations by the Central Intelligence Agency. It shows that the administration is arguing that the boundaries for interrogations should be subject to some latitude, even under an executive order issued last summer that President Bush said meant that the C.I.A. would comply with international strictures against harsh treatment of detainees.

"While the Geneva Conventions prohibit 'outrages upon personal dignity,' a letter sent by the Justice Department to Congress on March 5 makes clear that the administration has not drawn a precise line in deciding which interrogation methods would violate that standard, and is reserving the right to make case-by-case judgments. 'The fact that an act is undertaken to prevent a threatened terrorist attack, rather than for the purpose of humiliation or abuse, would be relevant to a reasonable observer in measuring the outrageousness of the act,' said Brian A. Benczkowski, a deputy assistant attorney general, in the letter, which had not previously been made public. . . . Some legal experts critical of the Justice Department interpretation said the department seemed to be arguing that the prospect of thwarting a terror attack could be used to justify interrogation methods that would otherwise be illegal.

"'What they are saying is that if my intent is to defend the United States rather than to humiliate you, than I have not committed an offense,' said Scott L. Silliman, who teaches national security law at Duke University....

Legal blogger Sandy Levinson writes that there is "a certain logical paradox here: The very fact that the some US interrogator would suggest that some particular conduct is 'reasonable' in some situation would, by definition, mean that there is not 'universal' condemnation of the practice. This is especially true if one accepts the DOJ argument that 'The fact that an act is undertaken to prevent a threatened terrorist attack, rather than for the purpose of humiliation or abuse, would be relevant to a reasonable observer in measuring the outrageousness of the act.' Once one allows what might be termed 'purity of utilitarian motive' to dominate the analysis, the game is over, for there will always be those who will argue that it is worth doing practically anything to forestall any 'terrorist attack.'"

Phillip Carter blogs for washingtonpost.com: "Among the more Kafkaesque arguments proffered by the Bush administration for its coercive interrogation (or torture) regime is this: Cruel, inhuman or degrading acts are not torture if they're done with good intentions."

Gitmo Watch

Jess Bravin writes in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required): "When military prosecutors enter Guantanamo's heavily guarded courtroom Monday, they can expect to face a spectacle: their former boss, in uniform, testifying against them. Col. Morris Davis, for two years the chief Guantanamo prosecutor, is expected to testify that the operation he once led has been infected with political agendas and corrupted by the Achilles' heel of military justice -- unlawful command influence. The Bush administration's military commissions plan has careered through internal disarray, administrative setbacks and legal debacles since the president announced it in November 2001, and still has yet to conduct a single trial. But Col. Davis's appearance may be the strangest twist yet. 'It's not that I'm sympathetic to the detainees or say they should get a free pass,' says Col. Davis, now director of the Air Force Judiciary. 'But I do think they are entitled to a fair trial.'"