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Candor but no remorse from President Bush

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It was a big deal last week when President Bush admitted the existence of secret CIA prisons formed in the flurry of activity after 9-11 and before the first troop deployments of the war on terror.

It wasn’t noteworthy because the prisons were actually “secret” – the Washington Post broke the story of CIA “black sites” in November 2005 in a front-page article that familiarized everyday Americans with the term “waterboarding.”

According to the article, Bush signed a covert presidential finding six days after the 9-11 attacks essentially granting the CIA muscle enough to do anything necessary to curb terrorist activity.

And we’re not calling him out for that. In those days after the towers fell he did what many Americans wanted him to do: pull out the stops and kick some butt.

His disclosure of the prison camps was likewise not of import because he showed regret for abetting their creation and allowing them to operate unchecked for these past five years – he didn’t. And he was unapologetic about the expansion of powers the executive branch has seen under his watch.

In fact, Bush sternly defended his actions in the White House speech delivered to members of his staff and survivors of 9-11 victims.

“By giving us information about terrorist plans we could not get anywhere else,” he said, “this program has saved innocent lives.”

No, the speech was remarkable because Bush for the first time in a while cut through the usual stream of interference and denial to freely admit – on the record – what he did, why he did it and the things that have happened because of it, though he did gloss over some of the finer points. Like the waterboarding.

It seems it’s tough talk time again from the law-and-order president who was one of the killingest governors in Texas history, with 152 executions during his tenure. Time to lay at least some of his cards on the table, to drum up support for what is turning out to be an unpopular war and, most importantly, to ratchet up the level of fear in time for this year’s elections.

We’re in for three weeks of this, essentially a massive PR campaign that strives to recreate the feelings Americans held immediately after 9-11 (when most of us approved the president’s handling of the situation) and to redraw the imaginary lines connecting the attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania to our efforts in Iraq.

Cheney, Rice and Rumsfield are on board as well.

Expect countless reiterations of the 2001 attacks, of the good things being done in Iraq and the progress our intelligence community has made because of the actions of this administration. Count on perfumed pigs and polished turds.

Just don’t look for humility or the disclosure of any information that could be called “new.”

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