Groundhog Day

GROUNDHOG DAY…. On Tuesday, “The Daily Show” ran a good segment on why the right’s arguments about Guantanamo Bay don’t make any sense. If it seemed familiar, it’s probably because the same show ran a very similar segment in January.

The problem isn’t that the show is repetitious; the problem is the ridiculous debate is stuck in neutral, and the discourse is just spinning its wheels. Jon Stewart’s commentary was just as applicable now as it was four months ago because the debate hasn’t made any progress.

Indeed, we keep having the same arguments. The right will ask, “Is waterboarding really torture?” The rest of us will calmly explain the situation, point to the law, the science, and the history, and explain why it’s torture. The right will respond, “OK, but is waterboarding really torture?” Months go by, and conservatives keep asking the same question, learning the answer, and then asking the same question again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

This week, we kept hearing that torture prevented terrorist attacks. We know there’s no evidence to support that, conservatives know we know that, but the right keeps saying it anyway.

Twice in the last two weeks — including during his speaking duel with President Obama on Thursday — [Dick] Cheney has said that the Bush administration’s approach may have saved “hundreds of thousands” of lives. […]

[T]errorism experts said that though it is possible to envision scenarios that involve casualties of that magnitude, no evidence has emerged about the plots disrupted during the Bush administration to suggest that Cheney’s claim is true.

This article appeared in the LA Times today, but it could have run a month ago. Or five months ago. Or a year ago.

Policy debates aren’t supposed to work this way. One side makes a dubious claim, and their rivals respond. If the claim is debunked, the first side moves onto new claims. The right refuses to play by these rules — they make bogus arguments, they fail, and then they repeat the exact same arguments again. It’s like the entire conservative movement is suffering from a short-term memory problem. That, or they assume Americans are idiots, and repeating lies improves the likelihood we’ll believe them.

Just yesterday, over the span of a few hours, we heard Republicans argue that torture prevented an attack on the Library Tower in Los Angeles; torture didn’t improve terrorist recruiting; and detainees only provided information after they’d been tortured. We know all of these claims are completely wrong, but more importantly, we’ve known this for a very long time.

As a movie, “Groundhog Day” was occasionally difficult to watch. As a national security debate, it’s just painful.