The date was December 14, 2004, and President Bush had just awarded the Medal of Freedom to George Tenet, Tommy Franks, and Jerry Bremer. In the President's words,
These three men symbolize the nobility of public service, the good character of our country, and the good influence of America on the world.
The BBC must have skipped out on the ceremonies because the next day they were busy frothing over this quote about Abu Ghraib:
This kind of widespread abuse could not have taken place without a leadership failure of the highest order," said Anthony D Romero, director of the American Civil Liberties Union, one of the groups given access to the documents.
The skirmish which followed Tenet's recent book tour, with demands that he return his medal parried deftly by a "Royal We" backhand, represent a missed opportunity to better understand the new world that is represented by the transmutation of this medal.
In a kind of reverse alchemy, George Bush has turned gold into lead, debasing one of the nation's highest honors in a bid to politically cheer on his failed and stupid war. So let's rename this award the Medal of "New" Freedom.
"New" Freedom is the freedom of the government to spy on its citizens without search warrants, to interminably detain prisoners without charges, and to rationalize torture with grade school word-play. It's a familiar list and too long enumerate faithfully.
Longtime hanger-on Attorney General Al Gonzales would be the next logical recipient of this honor.
I'm recommending that the Medal of "New" Freedom be crafted in a much smaller size than its old counterpart, and that it be minted from purest polonium-210. Hanging over the mantelpiece, it would pose no great hazard, but I guarantee- it will surely be a bitter pill to swallow.