McCain’s blogger call and reflections on 2000

John McCain held another blogger call today. He began by discussing the two major votes in the Senate yesterday — the confirmation of Judge Southwick and the failure of the Democrats to force a vote on the Dream Act. McCain returned to Washington to help get Southwick confirmed, but left for Iowa before the Dream Act vote, in order to attend an event at which he gave what he described as a major speech about what’s next in the entire Middle East region now that “we’re succeeding in Iraq.”
Southwick joined the military at age 43 and served in Iraq, making the cause of confirming him particularly dear to McCain. McCain praised Minority Whip Trent Lott, Southwick’s home state Senator, for his “good work” in steering Southwick’s nomination through the Senate.
Asked how, as president, he would deal with attempts to obstruct his judicial appointments, McCain responded that all you can do is take your case to the American public and “make famous” the obstructionist Senators through the use of “ridicule and sarcasm.” That comment, plus the improvement in Iraq since the surge, had me wondering whether I should have supported McCain instead of Bush back in 2000.
As for the Dream Act, McCain told us that he would have voted against cloture (i.e., in favor of preventing a vote) because he “got the message” this summer that Americans want the border secured before we “go on to the rest.” McCain would deem parts of the border secure when the governor of the relevant state so certifies.
Since McCain is clearly on record as to how he would have voted on the Dream Act cloutre motion, and since his vote was not needed to prevent cloture, there seems to be no basis for criticizing his departure for Iowa prior to the vote.
McCain was asked to react to a statement Rudy Giuliani apparently made in Davenport, Iowa questioning whether waterboarding constituted torture. McCain said that Giuliani’s statement — like Mitt Romney’s comment (as characterized by McCain) about “calling in the lawyers” to figure out what to do about Iran — reflects inexperience. McCain noted that Colin Powell and other retired military leaders oppose waterboarding due to fear of what will happen to our people if they are captured. He added that we need to maintain the moral high ground in the war on terror. Finally, he argued that if you inflict enough pain on people they’ll say anything, so you’ll end up with bad information.
These comments left me thinking that maybe I supported the right guy in 2000 after all. First, there’s no bright line between torture and effective interrogation techniques that aren’t torture. Giuliani’s comments reflect this reality, plus his desire to obtain vital information from terrorists who don’t want to give it up, not inexperience. Gen. Powell may not like waterboarding, but the people charged with obtaining information needed to protect American lives see the matter differently. By all accounts I’ve seen, including that of George Tenet, waterboarding is the most effective way to get such information, and it’s effective in part because it does not inflict pain, but rather instills fear. If these accounts are accurate, what information would we have failed to obtain under a President McCain, and what would the consequences have been?
As McCain acknowledged, our interrogation tactics have zero effect on how terrorists treat their captives. Nor do we run any risk of losing the moral high ground to al Qaeda and other such terrorist outfits. At most, waterboarding supplies our enemies with one argument. I’d rather protect American lives than deprive our enemies of that one argument.
UPDATE: I forgot to mention McCain’s comments on the World Series. As a fan of the NL West, he’s backing the Rockies. However, he added that the Red Sox were his boyhood team due to his admiration of Ted Williams’ baseball prowess and service in two wars.
I understand that Giuliani’s favorite players were Joe DiMaggio (whose playing days had just ended) and Yogi Berra.
I’m a Williams guy, but you can’t go wrong with either set of heroes.
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