Blogs > Cliopatria > Torture and the Campaign

Feb 26, 2008 7:54 pm

Torture and the Campaign

My thanks to Slate, for not having forgotten that torture is repugnant to American values. Here is a site search which shows some of their work.

In particular, Dahlia Lithwick’s article on how the administration has worked deliberately to make torture acceptable deserves recognition, and a lot more press. I wish it would get enough press that torture and the corrupting of American became a campaign issue.

That’s unlikely, though. Consider John McCain. McCain has opposed torture. But his opposition is not so great that he’s willing to make it a major issue.

I think it significant that on his website there is no mention of torture in the section Human dignity and the Sanctity of Life. I guess he doesn’t want to offend any born-again conservatives who are looking for reassurance concerning abortion. As another exhibit of McCain’s lack of fervor on the issue, he is unwilling to limit the powers of a president who wants to torture people.

I would like to direct you to Barack Obama’s position against torture, but I cannot find a reference on his site. I can find no such statement on Hillary Clinton’s site, either. Maybe somewhere in some speech, there is a reference, but they are certainly not putting the issue of torture on the front burner. Why not?

We all know why not. Because there have always been a lot of Americans who thought that torture could be good, and Bush has increased their numbers. McCain has a bunch of these people in his own party, and neither Obama nor Clinton wants to alienate the batch in the ranks of the independents.

That does not mean that this election offers no hope. None of the remaining candidates are likely to want to expand on Bush’s perfidy. They all would likely ratchet torture back. But a power like this, once legitimized, will tempt future presidents. That is why McCain’s vote was so wrong. There is a difference between maintaining options and maintaining destructive temptations.

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More Comments:

Rick Shenkman - 2/27/2008

This is an excellent post and an important issue to raise. Thanks Oscar!

Jonathan Dresner - 2/27/2008

While it's true that McCain was against torture, I don't know that it's entirely true to say that McCain is opposed to torture. He voted against and lobbied the president to veto the most recent anti-waterboarding bill.

I don't think you can argue that away with "lack of fervor," either: there's so little gray area to work with here....

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