ARI FLEISCHER "PROUD" TO ANSWER TORTURE SUBPOENA

Pride's a funny thing. Apparently it's also a sin of the deadly variety.

If so, maybe I'm in trouble. I take pride in my job, I'm excited about the premiere this Sunday of the second season of our show, The IFC Media Project, and I'm really proud that Green Day was kind enough to let us use a song off their new album, 21st Century Breakdown, as our show's opening theme.

Ari Fleischer is proud, too. And he wasn't afraid to announce it yesterday at our panel discussion at the Paley Center for Media in New York.

Gideon Yago, our show's host, moderated the event, and Ari was joined on stage by DailyBeast.com founder Tina Brown, al Jazeera correspondent Josh Rushing, BBC America's Katty Kay and Bush I speechwriter Peggy Noonan.

We were there to talk about the quality of America's international news coverage, but the conversation took a bit of a u-turn when Peggy Noonan went off script.

Noonan, who is also a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, brought up a recent George Will column that proposed a 9/11-type commission to get to the bottom of the ongoing torture scandal.

Tina Brown, Rushing and Kay were all for the idea, but when Gideon suggested Congress might need to appoint a special prosecutor, well, Ari bristled.

"That," George W. Bush's former press secretary shot back, "assumes a crime has been committed."

Ari was no fonder of the idea of an independent investigatory committee. He argued that the 9/11 Commission was the product of a very special circumstance. Congress doesn't need to appoint a commission because Congress already has the power to carry out an investigation of the Bush Administration's torture policies.

But Congress should not use this power, Ari Fleischer continued, because it would only "lead to acrimony and blame-gaming" and "devolve into the worst type of partisanship."

Still, the panel probed, what if Congress decides to ignore Ari's advice and carries out the investigation anyway, blame-gaming and partisanship bedamned? What if Congress subpoenas Ari Fleischer?

"No one likes to get a subpoena," Fleischer said, but added: "I'll be proud to testify if I get a subpoena. I'm proud of what we did to protect this country."

That perked some ears - and before I even got back to the office to start typing out these words, Vanity Fair and Think Progress had already posted his declaration.

I don't know what will come of this - torture (or the conspiracy to commit it) is, of course, a punishable offense worth up to 20 years in prison - but I can say Ari Fleischer seemed like a supremely nice person from the short time we spent talking before the event. When I told him I'd produced Fahrenheit 9/11 and SiCKO, his eyes lit up and he seemed genuinely interested in hearing more.

As for the rest of the panel, we'll have video up soon but Gideon and the group covered a lot of ground, from the state of international news (Josh Rushing had some great points from his travels around the world) to the transitioning state of the media.

On the topic of bloggers, Tina Brown was of course bullish as that's her business, and Peggy Noonan was, well, less enthused.

Ari Fleischer pointed out that bloggers were nothing new - the country was founded by a group of crusading "pamphleteers" after all. He even pointed out that Thomas Jefferson had secretly employed one such pamphleteer within the State Department to craft attacks on his rival, John Adams.

"Like Jeff Gannon in a wig?" Gideon asked.

But Ari Fleischer's a press secretary, so he knows how to avoid a question.

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The first episode of THE IFC MEDIA PROJECT Season 2 airs Sunday, May 3rd at 11PM on the Independent Film Channel.

The Associated Press calls the show "Brisk and Sharp-Witted."