The New New Normal
How members of Congress are using the Osama Bin Laden killing to prove they've been right all along about [insert issue here].
Graham, who was one of the GOP's leading opponents of waterboarding throughout the Bush years, agreed with Feinstein—but not entirely. After criticizing waterboarding and agreeing that "problems at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib caused us great misery" as recruiting tools, he suggested that the outcome in Abbottabad was a validation of what he'd been saying all along, as when he'd warned the Obama White House not to ban any other interrogation techniques that were not in the military field manual.
"The best way to get information from people is to hold them and get a rapport with them," he said. "I believed in enhanced interrogation techniques being classified. [Now] they're off the table. Big mistake."
The point: Everyone is still dug in. Bin Laden's death was satisfying, clarifying—and it may not change much about the permanent war on terror that began on 9/11. In the wake of the news, the FBI updated its "Most Wanted" list and went on "war footing." With the exception of the debate over Afghanistan and Pakistan funding—where the supporters of the status quo greatly outnumber the critics who think we can "declare victory and go home"—the discussion in Washington since then has been about how Bin Laden's death can validate the policies already in effect. Asked about that on Tuesday, Graham said that the death of Bin Laden was an opportunity to step up the effort in Afghanistan. Later, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry confronted critics who want to punish Pakistan by cutting its aid.
"If you want a radical Islamic government having possession of nuclear weapons and running Pakistan," said Kerry, "then you can go off in a kneejerk way that makes matters worse. I'm not for making matters worse."
That was clear on Tuesday in discussions of a priority that's been mostly ignored as Congress has debated debt ceilings and how best to repeal all of Nancy Pelosi's works. Some provisions of the Patriot Act will sunset this month. There's no serious partisan disagreement over extending them. Speaking before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Attorney General Eric Holder proved it.
"We will continue to utilize the critical authorities provided under the provisions of the Patriot Act," said Holder, "which I hope Congress will move promptly to reauthorize for a substantial period of time."
Later in the day, Mitch McConnell was asked what, if anything, the killing of Bin Laden would do for the Patriot debate. "Most of us believe it's been an effective tool in the war on terror," said McConnell. "There's some evidence that some of those tools may have been helpful [in getting Bin Laden]. I hope if it has any impact at all, it will be in the direction of extending the current provisions."
David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet at him @daveweigel.
Photograph by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images.