1. This administration, post9/11, winked at (at least) or ordered (at most) torture, as an instrument of (divine) retribution on "evil-doers" who murdered over 3,000 of our citizens. The president's lawyer, Alberto Gonzales, a very pleasant person, actively participated behind closed doors to discover a right accruing to the president (as protector of the land) to allow the torture of prisoners. (Hairs were split later about whether a prisoner of war was different from Al Qaeda, but you can spit in the ocean and make more waves than that with me.)
2. Abu Graib dawned.
3. The only people to pay for Abu Graib (so far) are "grunts." Their higher-ups claim repeatedly that Abu Graib is "isolated," performed by "rogues" and "hillbillies."
4. The subsequent Bush administration public disavowal of torture never quite rises to accountability, and though more Abu Graibs have been uncovered, the president was reelected anyway.
5. The president appoints Alberto Gonzales as his new Attorney General, the chief law enforcement officer of the United States. Someone smart in that White House knew that Gonzales's activity, weasling on torture, might be a problem. "Cruel and unusual punishment" is explicitly barred by our Constitution, and Congress has passed statutes that bar torture in war.
6. The Bush administration's public backpedaling becomes fierce enough to raise a breeze. In fact, the parsing of Gonzales' words by spokesmen for the administration -- which wouldn't have been necessary without the leaking of secrets -- proves how deeply into this shit they were (and don't we know by now that the parsing of words is an admission of guilt?).
Gonzales on TV ... okay, it's difficult to see this perfectly nice guy, this light-weight (let's face it), as the author of any grand legal weasling on torture. It's easier to see him as patsy (and the commentator you love to hate, Chris Matthews, was on this theme last night, maximizing the report from yesterday that it was actually Dick Cheney's in-house lawyer who came up with the legal reasoning behind at least one of those notorious torture memos).
Seeing Gonzales deal with hard questions, you can see that the nice-guy thing is both his best quality (hell! maybe he'll free himself of bad influences and actually rise to the office he's going to be confirmed for) and his worst quality. How can you watch him dancing around the hard questions, being unresponsive, even resorting to the lamely classic "I don't recall, Senator" and think that he'll ever get over being popular with, being in the fraternity of George Bush. He can't. He's not strong enough.
And this is not good.
(If you're looking for mid-day summaries of what's happened during the confirmation today, here's one newsy write-up with lots of quotes. There’ll be many more.)