Gingrich Wallows in the Mire
“I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners sometimes produces good intelligence but often produces bad intelligence because under torture a person will say anything he thinks his captors want to hear.” – Sen. John McCain.
Frequent readers of this blog know that I’m a Democrat and seldom have good things to say about Republicans. There are exceptions, though, and today’s posting is one of them.
The back-story, of course, is that the whackadoodle fringe of the Republican Party received a double blow earlier this month. Not only did President Obama produce a copy of his original birth certificate, with signatures and all, just a few days later he announced that Osama bin Laden had been found in
and killed. Pakistan
Desperate for some way to spin at least some of this to their advantage, several rabid right spokesdorks suggested that bin Laden would never have been found without George Bush, Jr.’s “enhanced interrogation” measures early in the war. That sterile phrase translates into water-boarding and other forms of torture and elicits the dreadful images of Abu Ghraib.
Michael Mukasey, who was one of Bush’s egregious attorneys general, said Khalid Sheikh Mohammed “broke like a dam under the pressure of harsh interrogation techniques that included waterboarding. He loosed a torrent of information – including eventually the nickname of a trusted courier of bin Laden.”
McCain knows a lot about torture. He was shot down in
in 1967 and was a prisoner of war there until 1973. He was repeatedly tortured and deals with the physical effects to this day. Vietnam
Mukasey’s suggestion that
torture led to bin Laden’s capture appeared in the Washington Post, and that’s where McCain rebutted him in an op-ed piece on May 11th. He responded to Mukasey’s claim quoted above by saying, “That is false.” U.S.
He also said, “Individuals might forfeit their life as punishment for breaking laws, but even then, as recognized in our Constitution’s prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment, they are still entitled to respect for their basic human dignity, even if they have denied that right to others.”
And that’s the point, isn’t it? We cannot preserve and extol our treasured rights and freedoms by denying them to others. We cannot legitimize torture in some foreign land or in some maximum-security prison without staining the very principles we are supposedly defending.
There was more from the apologists – search Rick Santorum and Dick Cheney if you want to know more – I don’t – but they were careful not to slander McCain himself, which is something new. It is refreshing to see a Republican draw a line that he won’t cross without having all the other elephants dump on him.
Before he ran for president, Sen. McCain was known as a statesman and someone who worked for bipartisan progress. His fellow Republicans called him a “maverick” because he didn’t always toe the party line – and it wasn’t always a term of endearment. He seemed to relinquish that title, even while he wrapped himself in it, in his campaign against Barak Obama. Perhaps now he can claim it again. (See McCain’s full text at http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/bin-ladens-death-and-the-debate-over-torture/2011/05/11/AFd1mdsG_story.html.)
Of all the issues that call out for righteous rejection by Republicans who still claim some vestige of honor, the defense of torture is perhaps the most important, and the most obvious. McCain’s principled refusal to condone “enhanced interrogation” shows courage and conviction that have been scarce among GOP legislators. Maybe it will encourage others in the party to speak out against their colleagues who go too far.
Unfortunately, it didn’t inspire Newt Gingrich, who stepped out of line by calling Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan “right wing social engineering” on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Despite the accuracy of his statement, he was castigated and pilloried and left for dead by the right wing echo chamber, and instead of defending his remark, he proceeded to apologize and make the bizarre excuse that he had been tricked into saying it.
Then, on Faux News, he came up with the ultimate denial, saying, “any ad which quotes what I said Sunday is a falsehood.”
No statesman Newt. Needless to say, his fledgling presidential campaign sank before it hit the water. Thank goodness.
May isn’t over, but so far it’s been a bad month for Republicans and their presidential hopefuls. The birth certificate did in Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich self-destructed, and Mike Huckabee decided he didn’t have enough fire in his belly. Osama bin Laden’s death gave President Obama a bump in the polls. Paul Ryan’s attempt to dismantle Medicare isn’t playing in
, or anywhere else. Just yesterday, the Democratic candidate in a “safe” Republican district in Peoria won a House seat. Glenn Beck was apparently fired and Rush Limbaugh’s ratings are in the toilet. And what’s left of the GOP presidential bullpen seems to be populated by klutzes fresh off the farm-team. New York
But in the long run, Republicans can be proud of their former standard-bearer and once-and-perhaps-future maverick and statesman, John McCain.