One Step Forward — One Step Back

The Bush administration is making one big mistake but standing up strong on another important issue. That's the subject of this evening's Talking Points memo.

Long before this Enron mess unfolded, Congress was asking Vice President Cheney for a list of those who advised him about energy policy. The thinking is that Americans should know who the White House is depending on for information about this very important subject.

Well, the Bush administration, led by Mr. Cheney, has refused to release that list. Since Talking Points believes in open government and thinks that we, the people, have a right to know who's giving our leaders advice, Points wants the list made public.

And so do most Republicans on Capitol Hill. The General Accounting Office, the GAO, is threatening to sue to get the list made public on behalf of Congress. And I think the GAO will win that suit should it be filed.

This isn't Red China here. Unless there's a national security concern, we should have this kind of information.

The Bush administration is also stonewalling Congress about the FBI scandal in Boston and former President Clinton's dubious fund-raising schemes. Documents on both these cases should be made public, but the president is invoking executive privilege. Again, this kind of secrecy in matters that directly affect all Americans is wrong. We have a right to know which people and which agencies are corrupt.

The Bush administration is right, however, in resisting attempts to classify the al-Qaeda captives as prisoners of war. They are not. They are terrorists. They have no rights under the Geneva Convention, and it would be foolish to give them any.

These terrorists have committed crimes against humanity. They aided and abetted the sneak attack on American civilians on Sept. 11. They are not Afghans but foreigners who came to Afghanistan for the express purpose of advancing the cause of terror. They're not fighting for a country, they're fighting for a madman named bin Laden.

Talking Points is appalled that some Americans think these men deserve due process. They deserve nothing. In most other societies, they would have already been executed. Short of torture, military interrogators are entitled to do whatever's necessary to exact information from these people.

This comes under the heading of protecting Americans from terrorism. The rules of engagement have changed since Sept. 11. We are not fighting a conventional war here. We're fighting a foreign criminal enterprise bent on killing American civilians. It's infuriating that some people don't understand this.

If it's true that Secretary of State Powell wants to accord the terrorists Geneva Convention protection, then the secretary should explain himself to the American people, because that's flat-out wrong, unless I'm missing something here.

The Bush administration should stand firm and supervise the terrorists with little regard for their personal preferences.

And that's the memo.

The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day

Attorney General John Ashcroft is apparently offended by two risqué statues that have been in the great hall since 1934. According to ABC News, Mr. Ashcroft told his staff he's tired of being photographed in front of the statues. One of the statues is the spirit of justice, the other is the majesty of justice, but both statues are nudes.

So Mr. Ashcroft has approved drapes for the statues. I'm not kidding, which you and I paid $8,000 for, which is ridiculous, unless you are the guy who sold them the drapes.

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