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I had the opportunity tonight to attend a panel discussion tonight at Ford's Theatre, entitled "Presidential Politics: Pundits, Personalities, and the People". The discussion was moderated by former CBS Evening News Anchor, Bob Schieffer. The panel consisted of veteran White House Reporter Helen Thomas, former DNC Chairman Charles Manatt, and former RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie.

Not one to disappoint, Helen Thomas did not hold back. When Schieffer asked why the panel thought Congress had been so ineffective, Thomas stated that she felt that Congress is a bunch of "gutless wonders". "I never would have thought that we would ever have to define torture", she added. When Gillespie responded by saying that the torture debate was real and necessary, stating "I'm not sure that sleep deprivation is torture", Thomas responded by saying "You try it".

The discussion bounced between whether the election would be a referendum on Iraq. Manatt, who chaired the DNC from 1981-1985, believed that Iraq would prove to be the decisive element in a number of close contests this election season. Gillespie on the other hand thought that while it was the biggest issue it was not the only issue. Everyone on the panel agreed that the frontloading of the primaries was an issue that concerned them. Schieffer believed that the way the primary process is structured now, people have been taken out of the process and only those with the money have a voice. He added that if we selected the candidates at the convention like the days of old, every television station would show gavel to gavel coverage. The discussion ended with all three agreeing that the front runners for the party nominations were Hillary Clinton and John McCain, but conceded that it's simply impossible to know now who it would ultimately be.

The one thing that struck me more than anything else was the statement made by Ed Gillespie during the question about the torture bill currently being debated. He stated "The United States does not condone torture" which prompted laughter from many in the room. Perhaps Mr. Gillespie should have watched an interview Matt Lauer held with President Bush two weeks ago. The back and forth went like this:

Matt Lauer: But it's been reported that with Khalid Sheik Mohammed, he was what they call waterboarded.

George W. Bush: Um, I'm not going to talk about techniques that we use on people. One reason why is that we don't want the enemy to adjust. The American people need to know we are using techniques within the law to protect 'em.

Matt Lauer: I don't want to let this within the law issue slip, though. I mean, if in fact there was waterboarding used with Khalid Sheik Mohammed for the viewers, that's basically you strap someone to a board and you make them feel as if they're going to drown, you put them under water. If that was legal and within the law, why couldn't you do it at Guantanamo? Why do you have to go to a secret location around the world?

George W. Bush: I, I, I'm not going to talk about techniques, and I'm not going to explain to the enemy what we're doing. All I'm telling you is, you asked me whether we're doing things to protect the American people, and I want the American people to know we are doing so.

Matt Lauer: At some point, Mr. President, if these techniques, these alternative procedures...

George W. Bush: I, I'm not going to talk about it.

Matt Lauer: I'm not going to ask you to specifically say anything about it. But if they are used, are you at all concerned at some point, even if you get results, there's a blurring of the lines between ourselves and the people we're trying to protect ourselves against?

George W. Bush: Uh, Matt, I'm just telling you, what this government has done is to take steps to protect you and your family.

Lauer caught Bush at his worst in this interview and showed the American people Bush's narrow minded view on torture, the duty of the president, and international law. I find it interesting that he didn't want to talk about waterboarding because he didn't want the enemy to adjust. How exactly do you adjust to waterboarding, where you are tied to a board and basically suffocated with water? As Jon Stewart asked, "Are they gonna grow gills?" The President didn't want to talk about torture methods because he knows he is way out of the mainstream when it comes to this issue. So Mr. Gillespie, don't tell me that the US does not condone torture, because when the Senate voted 90-8 against the President's policy, in October of 2005, it became quite clear that even Bush's closest colleagues, those on the far right of the political spectrum disagree with his views on the use of torture.