Rand Paul and Ted Cruz move to the left of Lindsey Graham on terrorist rights

Earlier this week, the Senate passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that limits the entire U.S. government to only the interrogation and detention techniques outlined in the Army Field Manual. The vote was 78-21.

The Army Field Manual does not permit physical contact with detainees, not even a slap. The harshest method it permits the “Fear-Up (Harsh).” In this approach, “the interrogator behaves in an overpowering manner with a loud and threatening voice.” He “may even feel the need to throw objects across the room to heighten the source’s implanted feelings of fear.”

Hardened terrorists aren’t likely to crack under a “loud and threatening voice” and an object thrown across the room, especially when they know that no force can follow.

Three Republican presidential hopefuls voted on the amendment. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz voted in favor of limiting interrogation and detention techniques to what’s in the Field Manual. Lindsey Graham voted against doing so.

Thus it was that Paul and Cruz moved to the left of Graham, perhaps the Senate’s most outspoken critic (along with his pal John McCain) of enhanced interrogation techniques, on this issue.

Was Graham’s vote influenced by his presidential run? Perhaps. The aforementioned McCain, with whom Graham has marched in lockstep on these matters, voted in favor of the amendment.

But the same question might be asked of Cruz. Does he really want to tie future presidents’ hands and tell terrorists in advance that they can refuse to answer questions without fear of physical contact? Or is he concerned about being outflanked by Paul, a direct competitor for a sizeable faction in the race for the nomination?

Marco Rubio was absent and therefore didn’t vote. However, he issued a strong statement opposing the amendment. Rubio said:

I do not support telegraphing to the enemy what interrogation techniques we will or won’t use, and denying future commanders in chief and intelligence officials important tools for protecting the American people and the U.S. homeland.

Well put.

Majority leader Mitch McConnell was among the 21 Senators who voted against the amendment. So was his Whip, John Cornyn.

Jeb Bush has no vote. However, Sean Hannity asked him about enhanced interrogation. According to this report, he responded: “I think it was appropriate at the time; I don’t think we need it [now].”

This position strikes me as irresponsible. By some accounts, the threat of terrorist activity directed against the U.S. and its interests approaches the post 9/11 level. Certainly, there are more terrorist groups interested in attacking us than ever before.

Bush’s answer, if taken seriously, suggests that he is too sanguine about the threat of terrorism.

But Paul and Cruz are even more misguided because their opposition to enhanced interrogation isn’t limited to “now.” It’s for all time.

I expected no less from Rand Paul. I hoped for better from Ted Cruz.