Anti-Saddam viewers were itching for Rumsfeld to unload, and he quickly expressed the right note of disbelief that anyone would use the word "torture" to describe the temperature in Saddam's cell: "We don't torture people. And here's a man who has tortured to death tens of thousands of people, conducted rape and brutality the likes of which it would be difficult to find a more vicious and brutal dictator in our adult lifetimes."
They really ought to assemble a focus group, like political consultants do for candidates, so Jennings, Stahl & Co. can watch the people meters head quickly for the basement when they say idiotic things like these. Don't they know they're digging themselves a Saddam-size hole?
Luckily, these examples of foolishness did not overwhelm the warm feelings coast to coast and did not represent the grudgingly positive, hard-to-dismiss "We Got Him" coverage that dominated the day. The capture of Saddam Hussein had a dramatic effect on the gloomy prognosticators of the Quagmire Corps. Not only had the supposedly incompetent armed forces found a vicious tyrant in a spider hole in a country the size of California. Suddenly, they rediscovered that, you know what, Saddam is a rather bad fellow. Suddenly, the quagmire talk was replaced by a rediscovery of torture chambers, chemical gassings and mass graves.
A Saddam trial could have the salutary educational benefit of pounding these points home, so Saddam could appear to be at least as much of a criminal as Scott Peterson and the other favorite cable-media murder cases. But if Saddam starts to take the stand of a trial to spout the Ramsey Clark lines -- President Bush made all this stuff up to get my oil wells -- don't count out the media to be a willing public-relations echo chamber, just as they were for the Clark camp before the war.
So Saddam-slamming gloaters, gloat while you can. The happy news won't stay happy. The wait won't be long for the partisan media negativity to return, trying to turn the American public back around to the "colossal mistake" mantra of most of the Democratic primary field.