THE DURBIN FIASCO….I agree with Atrios: the way the whole Dick Durbin thing has played out is disheartening for liberals. Let’s count the ways:

  1. For starters, there was nothing actually wrong with what Durbin said. He didn’t compare Bush to Hitler, he didn’t compare America to Nazi Germany, and he didn’t compare Guantanamo to the gulag. He quoted specific cases of prisoner abuse and then pointed out that those specific cases were something you might expect from a totalitarian regime. He said this behavior was unworthy of the United States, and he was right.

  2. Still, Durbin has been in political life for many years and probably should have known better. When your opponents have a long history of demagoguery and smear attacks, you should be careful not to give them additional ammunition. That was mistake #1.

  3. If you do say something, though, you need to stand up for yourself against the schoolyard bullies. Durbin shouldn’t have backed down and he shouldn’t have apologized. He should have defended himself vigorously. That was mistake #2.

  4. Leading Democrats should have had the guts to back him, and Dick Daley should have kept his mouth shut. Explaining that “the mayor did not realize the impact his remarks would have” doesn’t cut it. That was mistake #3.

That’s a lot of mistakes for a single paragraph in a single speech. And the biggest mistake of all? That apparently, even after all this time, we’ve been unable to persuade the country that criticizing prisoner abuse is not a bigger problem than the abuse itself. We should aspire to live up to our ideals, not merely be better than the worst regimes in the world.

UPDATE: In the Chicago Tribune, Chicago native Eric Zorn says the same thing, but says it better.