Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Monday, October 01, 2007

Bill Clinton's Jack Bauer Moment

On Meet the Press yesterday, the former President worked his way around to agreeing with his wife, the future President, that our policy should be “uncompromisingly opposed to terror--I mean to torture.”

Freudian slip aside (some lingering doubt about using torture to avert terror?), Bill Clinton’s, uh, tortured explanation may have given us some insight into how a President deals with the real world as opposed to abstractions.

“There’s a one in a million chance,” Clinton said, “that you might be alone somewhere, and you’re Jack Bauer on ‘24’...It happens every season with Jack Bauer, but in the real world it doesn’t happen very much. If you have a policy which legitimizes this, it’s a slippery slope and you get in the kind of trouble we’ve been in here with Abu Ghraib, with Guantanamo, with lots of other examples.

“And I’m not even sure what I said is right now. I think what happens is the honest truth is that Tim Russert, Bill Clinton, people filming this show, if we were the Jack Bauer person and it was six hours to the bomb or whatever, you don’t know what you would do, and you have to--but I think what our policy ought to be is to be uncompromisingly opposed to terror—I mean to torture, and that if you’re the Jack Bauer person, you’ll do whatever you do and you should be prepared to take the consequences. And I think the consequences will be imposed based on what turns out to be the truth.”

Translation: Policy and politics don’t cover every contingency in the real world, and people in power sometimes have to make horrific judgments. But if a President decides to become Jack Bauer or his ancestor, Dirty Harry, at some critical moment, he should be prepared to take the consequences for breaking the rules.

Would somebody please explain that to George Bush and Dick Cheney?

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