Good old Ronald Reagan, master politician.

His death last Saturday, and the flood-tide of mourning it has unleashed across the nation, drove off the front pages those photos of Sen. Ted Kennedy and other long-faced congressional Dems trying to make political hay out of the leaked portions of Attorney General John Ashcroft’s so-called “torture memo.” Kennedy fumed and fulminated, but the rest of America wasn’t interested. What Americans wanted to read about and watch on their television sets was the outpouring of grief, remembrances, affection, and respect for the president who had embodied their own patriotism, optimism, and faith.

Thanks, Mr. President. We miss you, but we must say that you pulled a nice one over Congress, as you so often did during your White House years.

That was as it should be, for the torture flap, like so much of the politicized outrage over missteps and even proper steps in the war against terrorism, is way overblown. No one is saying that any torture was committed–although naturally the congressional Dems want to redefine “torture” as anything that harms your self-esteem. Furthermore, Ashcroft’s memo seems to address purely hypothetical circumstances dealing with the interrogation of enemy prisoners when innocent American lives are at stake. Even then, the memo doesn’t appear to authorize actual torture, unless you count looking at a prisoner cross-eyed as torture.

Naturally, the Dems are trying to tie the memo to Abu Ghraib. Let me assure our readers one more time that both The Other Charlotte and I heartily disapprove of what went on in that prison, and we strongly support the strong efforts our military has made to bring the perpetrators to justice and to make sure that the mistreatment doesn’t happen again. But we resist partisan efforts to turn Abu Ghraib into a wholesale indictment of either the American military or the Bush administration.

President Bush and congressional Republicans are also perfectly aware of the political underpinnings of the torture flap and aren’t going along with the calls for Ashcroft’s head. As Knight-Ridder reports, Ashcroft won’t release the memo publicly, and the Dem minority on the Senate Judiciary Committee will have a tough time forcing the issuance of a subpoena. That’s as it should be. Ronald Reagan would approve.