THE HUMAN RIGHTS PRESIDENT…. Way back in 2004, in a piece that is no longer online, George W. Bush told New Yorker writer Ken Auletta, “No President has ever done more for human rights than I have.”

The president has said plenty of odd things over the years, but this has always struck me as one of his more unusual boasts. It was especially odd, then, when the State Department repeated the claim yesterday.

[Thursday], Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Libyan leader Moamer Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam. In a press briefing yesterday leading up to the meeting, reporters pressed State Dept. spokesperson Sean McCormack on whether Rice would urge Libya to release Libyan activist Fathi al-Jahmi, a political prisoner who is gravely ill.

McCormack offered a defensive response: “I have to make it very clear we are concerned not only about Mr. al-Jahmi’s case, but other human rights cases around the world.” McCormack also claimed that President Bush’s human rights record could perhaps be the best in American history:

McCORMACK: And — and one thing I do take exception to is the idea that somehow we are not attentive to pushing the issue of human rights, whether it’s in Libya or any place else around the world. I don’t think — I would put the record of this administration up against any American administration or any other government around the world in terms of promoting universal human rights and pushing for human rights.

I’m amazed these officials are able to make this claim with a straight face. We are, after all, talking about the president closely tied to torture, rendition, waterboarding, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, and suspension of habeas corpus.

Bush’s human rights record can be safely compared to “any American administration or any other government around the world”? Seriously?

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.