Monday, September 25, 2006

On the Torture "Compromise" or Battle Without Honor or Humanity

The views on the agreement between a maverick group of Republicans led by Senator John McCain and the White House are all over the map. Some are just yelling, screaming positions we've already heard before. I've found two commentaries that are thoughtful and worthwhile. First up is Jeremy Dibble of Charing RINO. He states in his Saturday post, about how the Bush Administration basically pretended to compromise and then decided to go their own way. Jeremy writes:

...I think the senators (McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Warner)did get a great deal more than they had originally, and they forced the White House to give up some major points. However, I'm afraid that they took the negotiations at face value, and while it pains me to have to say it, I can draw no other conclusion but that this Administration headed by this president is incapable of good-faith negotiation and honest dealing(emphasis mine)... McCain, Warner and Graham deserve some credit for wringing water out of a stone. Unfortunately, it's clear now that that water is undrinkable.

Andrew Sullivan draws the same conclusion about the Bushies, and gives some speculation about why McCain "gave in:"

I've long tried to give McCain the benefit of the doubt on all of this. He has been the sole figure able to resist this president's permanent seizure of emergency powers - to detain any person at will without charges or recourse to courts and to torture them at will. McCain is, I believe, a good man. But he has obviously decided that he cannot win this one. He has decided that the best he can do is prevent a formal breach of the Geneva Conventions, keep the military itself away from torture, while allowing domestic law to be reinterpreted to allow all the torture techniques previously used by the CIA. It is easy to condemn him. Too easy, perhaps. He may have done as much as he possibly can to prevent torture without playing directly into Karl Rove's hands. It is clear that if McCain continued his opposition, the Bush machine would have done all it could to kill his nomination prospects. And if he fails to win the nomination, and a Christianist Rove-backed candidate seizes it, then the future for American liberty and a decent conservatism would be even darker than it already is. I'm guessing that's how he has rationalized it. He's not dumb enough to trust the good word of George W. Bush. And he's not dumb enough to fight a battle he cannot win - now.

Then there are more cynical interpretations. It is in McCain's interests for the Republicans to do very badly this fall, so he can position himself as their savior in 2008. By taking the torture issue off the table, he removes one of Rove's key weapons in the campaign: to portray the Democrats as too cowardly to torture the perpetrators of 9/11 and therefore too weak to defend the nation. It's b.s., of course, but that's beside the point. It works. So this deal may temporarily help the Democrats in November (which may explain their own supine cowardice on the subject).

I know there are some that think McCain, et. al are wimps. I tend to like McCain and I think he really does want to make sure our government doesn't torture. But I also think he is probably a realist. This administration, led by Karl Rove, would go after McCain as hard or even harder than they did during the presidential campaign of 2000. The problem here is not that McCain gave in or the Democrats didn't stand up, but that this Administration cares nothing about the rule of law. It thinks that because it won an election, it can do what it likes and damn the Congress, Geneva Conventions and the like. It is shocking to see conservatives, who philosophically believed in law and tradition, doesn't seem to care about those long-held Burkean traditions.

So, kudos for the McCain gang for standing up to the president. It's too bad that the President and his gang have no honor.

1 comment:

MikeJ said...

Good post...I'm not sure I trust anyone in Washington, but the Bush administration seems to stoop to new, lower levels each time. I wish this "compromise" bill wasn't so watered down, but under this administration, it'll be hard to get anything better.

Patrick Leahy mentioned a letter here, posted here at, signed by more than 500 law professors critical of the compromise. I like what they say...but then again, who knows how much of a realist they are!