Torture, Foreign and Domestic...Just Kidding

Held in a secret prison. No charges filed. No recourse to any courts. Physical and mental abuse. Torture?

Who cares, you say, if we do it to terrorists. If it helps. Even if it doesn’t. Only soft hearted civil libertarians and senators from safe Democratic seats really care about the rights of likely terrorists.

But the Golden Rule is the reason for international law. It is the underlying moral force, what gives it any chance at all of being law. We cannot simply rewrite the Geneva Convention for purposes of how we treat them; it cannot help but apply to how they, whoever in the world steps up as they, treat us.

If you think about the detainee bill from the perspective of how we should treat terrorists, it’s a no-brainer. However we need to, to get the information we want? If you think about it from the perspective of Americans held abroad, you understand why conservatives are so angry at John McCain for reminding their party of its conscience at the expense of the president’s momentum.

GOP's Inside Man Outed

He was the toast of the Hotline, the Bible of Beltway insiders, the in-the-know conservatives’ first pick for the 2008 Republican nomination. He was their guy, the one whose name you heard first, the one who last year’s National Journal insiders’ poll highlighted.

Then came the “macaca” joke about a staffer of Indian descent who was working for his opponent. Then he snapped at the reporter who asked about his Jewish mother that she was casting “aspersions” on his background. Then old friends and roommates started talking about his past use of racial epithets. Then he became the embattled Senate candidate instead of the presidential favorite.

The question is not how all the neo-cons and insiders could have been so wrong in thinking George Allen had any hope of being the Republican nominee for president. We’re all wrong about politics all of the time.

The real question is how everybody could be so wrong about George Allen the man.

What is hurting the Allen candidacy, as the parade of so-called mistakes piles up, is not a perception of ineptitude (that wouldn’t be so bad, ineptitude can be cured sometimes) but of arrogance and insensitivity that either got hidden unbelievably effectively for many years by an absolutely brilliant political actor or was there and close enough to the surface but until it exploded in particular comments, it was also acceptable enough that no one thought it an obstacle to his success.

Is the man we are seeing really so different than the one insiders have been touting for years as their next Ronald Reagan/George W. Bush? Or did they just figure that he’d behave better, that he wouldn’t slip up on an ethnic joke or get tripped up by a question about having a Jewish mother, and that a better behaved version of himself would be good enough.

In that sense, I suppose, there is something to be said for the pressures of campaigning bringing out a certain sort of truth. The question remains what voters will do with it.

California's Desperate Democrat

As Democrats nationally scurry about trying to figure out whether to turn the midterm elections into the referendum on the war in Iraq that voters are spoiling for and Democrats could actually win, poor Phil Angelides in California is desperate to turn his increasingly hopeless California governor’s race into precisely such a referendum, if only he could.

His latest gambit is to use the national guard as his hook, threatening to take on the president on his use of the California Guard in Iraq, demanding (can you see George Bush shivering in his shoes?) that he return the Guard to California, even suing (now he’s really shaking, he’s got Harriet Miers on the case)….

Angelides can be forgiven for resorting to desperate tactics. He is running 17 points behind Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, without an issue to run on. Last year at this time, Arnold was so unpopular he could not attend his own wife’s statewide, 11,000 strong Women’s Conference for fear of being booed. This year, he was introduced by his daughter, and joined the Dalai Lama as a headline guest.

How is Angelides supposed to compete with that? No wonder he’s trying to make the war an issue. In Angelides case, it’s a sign of desperation. In the case of the national Democrats, by contrast, it might be a sign they had their act together.

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Susan Estrich is currently the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California and a member of the Board of Contributors of USA Today. She writes the "Portia" column for American Lawyer Media and is a contributing editor of The Los Angeles Times. She was appointed by the president to serve on the National Holocaust Council and by the mayor of the City of Los Angeles to serve on that city's Ethics Commission.

Estrich's books include "Real Rape," "Getting Away with Murder: How Politics Is Destroying the Criminal Justice System," "Dealing with Dangerous Offenders," "Making the Case for Yourself: A Diet Book for Smart Women" and "Sex & Power," currently a Los Angeles Times bestseller.

She served as campaign manager for Michael Dukakis' presidential bid, becoming the first woman to head a U.S. presidential campaign. Estrich appears regularly on the FOX News Channel.

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