During Saturday's GOP presidential debate, Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann revived one of the most spirited arguments over the war on terrorism by promising to revive the Bush administration policy of waterboarding terrorism suspects to get them to talk. Sen. John McCain, the GOP's 2008 nominee and a former prisoner of war in Vietnam, said he was "very disappointed" to hear candidates advocating the use of simulated drowning, which both McCain and his former rival President Obama flatly called "torture." Is it a bad move to embrace a policy that has been at the root of some of the most damning criticism of George W. Bush's presidency?
This made the whole GOP field look bad: "There is no reasonable argument that waterboarding is not torture" — we prosecuted Japanese officials for doing it in World War II, says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway. Plus, "there's plenty of evidence that it doesn't work at all." The fact that so many candidates are still for it — Rick Perry likes waterboarding, too — makes it appear that the entire GOP presidential field has "gone off the rails."
"Republicans for waterboarding"
Liberals are just trying to make Republicans sound crazy: The GOP candidates know waterboarding is controversial, says Ken Shepherd at News Busters. They just disagree with President Obama, and view simulated drowning as a legitimate enhanced interrogation technique in certain, limited cases. But instead of simply reporting the news, the pro-Obama, liberal media is trying to use this difference of opinion "to attack the Republican presidential field as insane."
"New MSNBC host Wagner: Pro-waterboarding GOP candidates building 'house of crazy'"
Unfortunately, conservative voters lap this up: "That there's still even 'debate' over whether the United States should engage in torture is a national embarrassment," says Steve Benen at Washington Monthly. But in the post-Cheney GOP, "it's become practically a party norm to support torture techniques that America used to consider unthinkable." Sadly, pledging to revive waterboarding makes you sound presidential to GOP voters, not crazy.
"Republicans return to the torture 'debate'"
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