Over at The Daily Beast, Scott Horton reports that PBS is apparently burying a documentary about torture until after President Bush is scheduled to leave office -- and, as a result, until after election day.
This spring, PBS's distinguished Frontline series aired a mildly critical account of the lead-up to the Iraq War entitled "Bush's War." As the airing of the program was announced, the Bush Administration proposed to slash public funding for PBS by roughly half for 2009, by 56% for 2010 and eliminating funding entirely for 2011. Did PBS get the message? Perhaps.
On Thursday evening WNET in New York will air an important new documentary by Emmy and Dupont Award winning producer Sherry Jones entitled "Torturing Democracy." It appears on WNET and several other affiliates independently because PBS would not run the show—at least not until President Bush has left office. The show delivers impressively on a promise to "connect the dots in an investigation of interrogations of prisoners in U.S. custody that became 'at a minimum, cruel and inhuman treatment and, at worst, torture'" (quoting Alberto Mora, who served as general counsel of the Navy under Donald Rumsfeld, and features in an interview).
Over the past few years, the American government has taken to comitting torture and listening in on Americans' phone calls (including recording and storing the personal telephone conversations of journalists.) We've had an administration that has been so aggressive in its grab for power, and so dismissive of the Constitution, it has gone so far as to claim that Vice President Cheney is a heretofore unknown Fourth Branch of government.
There's a very good argument to be made that those things are the most important issues we face as Americans -- not the housing crisis, or the economic meltdown, or health care, or the war in Iraq. All of those are serious matters, to be sure, but whether the next president will continue the Bush administration's approach to executive power and civil liberties and the Constitution go to the most basic questions about who we are as a nation -- not to mention how, structurally, decisions about the economy and war get made.