No Comment — November 29, 2007, 6:27 pm

McCain on Waterboarding

I’m not particularly impressed with the recent debates in YouTube format hosted by CNN. The cable network’s management of the process has involved too many serious errors in judgment for that to go unnoticed. But in the end it’s the candidates’ responses which mark the low point. Even so, these debates have their moments, and I find on occasion there are passages that are truly inspirational. Last night, John McCain’s response to a question about waterboarding was just that. He found the right pitch and the right moral voice on the question, and his words lifted the debate up for a few minutes on what continues to emerge, just as John McCain says, as the defining issue in the 2008 campaign. This is the not-to-be-missed exchange from the debate.

The moral clarity and vision of McCain’s answer was perfectly balanced by the bankruptcy of Romney’s. In the end, the former Massachusetts governor ducks by saying that he would turn to his ultimate guru for guidance: Cofer Black, the Vice Chair of Blackwater USA. Mr. Black is known for his bravado, including a pledge to the White House that he would send them Osama bin Laden’s head in a box packed with dry ice. But of course it was Mr. Black who failed in efforts to catch bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders as they disappeared into the caves and ravines of Tora Bora. He moved from that high accomplishment to Blackwater, which is now engulfed in a series of scandals reflecting questionable management practices. Moreover, CIA officers complain that Black’s move to Blackwater entailed the privatization of vital national security relationships for personal profit, another hallmark of abuse in the Bush Administration.

McCain is turning for guidance to American military tradition and ethics. Romey on the other hand draws on Hollywood cartoons and adventurists. It’s quite a difference. And at the moment, it looks like the Republican base will take Chuck Norris over George Washington and Dwight Eisenhower any day.

Among the other candidates in the Republican field, Huckabee is clearly in the process of transforming his position on the torture question. He’s drawing closer to John McCain’s view with each passing debate. I’ll go out on a limb and say we’ll soon see three Republican candidates taking a clear-cut anti-torture position: John McCain, Ron Paul and Mike Huckabee. Not coincidentally, the first two are the Republican candidates who consistently draw the most support from the active-duty military. Huckabee is clearly intent on pitching more effectively to the same community.

Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

From the June 2014 issue

The Guantánamo “Suicides,” Revisited

A missing document suggests a possible CIA cover-up

No Comment March 28, 2014, 12:32 pm

Scott Horton Debates John Rizzo on Democracy Now!

On CIA secrecy, torture, and war-making powers

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada



September 2014

Israel and Palestine

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Washington Is Burning

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On Free Will

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

They Were Awake

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content


Arab artists take up — and look past — regional politics
“When everyday life regularly throws up images of terror and drama and the technological sublime, how can a photographer compete?”
“Qalandia 2087, 2009,” by Wafa Hourani
“There was torture by the previous regime and by the current Iraqi regime,” Dr. Amin said. “Torture by our Kurdish government, torture by Syrians, torture by the U.S.”
Visiting His Own Grave © Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
The Tale of the Tape·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Heroin isn’t the weakness Art Pepper submits to; it’s the passion he revels in.”
Photograph (detail) © Laurie Pepper
The Soft-Kill Solution·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Policymakers, recognizing the growing influence of civil disobedience and riots on the direction of the nation, had already begun turning to science for a response."
Illustration by Richard Mia
New Books
New Books·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Almond insists that watching football does more than feed an appetite for violence. It’s a kind of modern-day human sacrifice, and it makes us more likely to go to war.”
Photograph by Harold Edgerton

Chance that a movie script copyrighted in the U.S. before 1925 was written by a woman:

1 in 2

Engineers funded by the United States military were working on electrical brain implants that will enable the creation of remote-controlled sharks.

Malaysian police were seeking fifteen people who appeared in an online video of the Malaysia-International Nude Sports Games 2014 Extravaganza, and Spanish police fined six Swiss tourists conducting an orgy in the back of a moving van for not wearing their seatbelts.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!


In Praise of Idleness


I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today