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McCain Will Be the Unfair Victim of a Reasonable, Consistance and Principled Position


HolyMoses
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I don't need to tell anyone how strong my support for Obama is over McCain, but having just read McCains' statement on WHY he voted "for torture" (as it is being unfairly characterized) I feel compelled to not only defend him (for what it's worth) but to post a new thread on this topic so that my concern is not burried in the other thread.

McCain's opposition to torture is deeply held and consistent. His concern with the statute, as expressed below, is that it applies the military field manual to the CIA as far as interogation techniques are concerned.

He is expressly prohibiting torture by ANY American agency, even the CIA. But he recognizes that military guidelines are not always applicable to the CIA.

I am afraid that my guy will join in the attack of this perceived "flip flop". And I am afraid that it will work. Just as the "voted for the war before voting against it line" was unfairly used to skewer Kerry.

Our world is nuanced. When you govern by bumper sticker, you get elected but also get into Iraq. When are we going to learn?

Mr. President, I oppose passage of the Intelligence Authorization Conference Report in its current form.

During conference proceedings, conferees voted by a narrow margin to include a provision that would apply the Army Field Manual to the interrogation activities of the Central Intelligence Agency. The sponsors of that provision have stated that their goal is to ensure that detainees under American control are not subject to torture. I strongly share this goal, and believe that only by ensuring that the United States adheres to our international obligations and our deepest values can we maintain the moral credibility that is our greatest asset in the war on terror.

That is why I fought for passage of the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA), which applied the Army Field Manual on interrogation to all military detainees and barred cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of any detainee held by any agency. In 2006, I insisted that the Military Commissions Act (MCA) preserve the undiluted protections of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions for our personnel in the field. And I have expressed repeatedly my view that the controversial technique known as waterboarding constitutes nothing less than illegal torture.

Throughout these debates, I have said that it was not my intent to eliminate the CIA interrogation program, but rather to ensure that the techniques it employs are humane and do not include such extreme techniques as waterboarding. I said on the Senate floor during the debate over the Military Commissions Act, Let me state this flatly: it was never our purpose to prevent the CIA from detaining and interrogating terrorists. On the contrary, it is important to the war on terror that the CIA have the ability to do so. At the same time, the CIA s interrogation program has to abide by the rules, including the standards of the Detainee Treatment Act. This remains my view today.

When, in 2005, the Congress voted to apply the Field Manual to the Department of Defense, it deliberately excluded the CIA. The Field Manual, a public document written for military use, is not always directly translatable to use by intelligence officers. In view of this, the legislation allowed the CIA to retain the capacity to employ alternative interrogation techniques. I d emphasize that the DTA permits the CIA to use different techniques than the military employs, but that it is not intended to permit the CIA to use unduly coercive techniques indeed, the same act prohibits the use of any cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment.

Similarly, as I stated after passage of the Military Commissions Act in 2006, nothing contained in that bill would require the closure of the CIA s detainee program; the only requirement was that any such program be in accordance with law and our treaty obligations, including Geneva Common Article 3.

The conference report would go beyond any of the recent laws that I just mentioned laws that were extensively debated and considered by bringing the CIA under the Army Field Manual, extinguishing thereby the ability of that agency to employ any interrogation technique beyond those publicly listed and formulated for military use. I cannot support such a step because I have not been convinced that the Congress erred by deliberately excluding the CIA. I believe that our energies are better directed at ensuring that all techniques, whether used by the military or the CIA, are in full compliance with our international obligations and in accordance with our deepest values. What we need is not to tie the CIA to the Army Field Manual, but rather to have a good faith interpretation of the statutes that guide what is permissible in the CIA program.

This necessarily brings us to the question of waterboarding. Administration officials have stated in recent days that this technique is no longer in use, but they have declined to say that it is illegal under current law. I believe that it is clearly illegal and that we should publicly recognize this fact.

In assessing the legality of waterboarding, the Administration has chosen to apply a shocks the conscience analysis to its interpretation of the DTA. I stated during the passage of that law that a fair reading of the prohibition on cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment outlaws waterboarding and other extreme techniques. It is, or should be, beyond dispute that waterboarding shocks the conscience.

It is also incontestable that waterboarding is outlawed by the Military Commissions Act, and it was the clear intent of Congress to prohibit the practice. The MCA enumerates grave breaches of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions that constitute offenses under the War Crimes Act. Among these is an explicit prohibition on acts that inflict serious and non-transitory mental harm, which the MCA states need not be prolonged. Staging a mock execution by inducing the misperception of drowning is a clear violation of this standard. Indeed, during the negotiations, we were personally assured by Administration officials that this language, which applies to all agencies of the U.S. Government, prohibited waterboarding.

It is unfortunate that the reluctance of officials to stand by this straightforward conclusion has produced in the Congress such frustration that we are today debating whether to apply a military field manual to non-military intelligence activities. It would be far better, I believe, for the Administration to state forthrightly what is clear in current law that anyone who engages in waterboarding, on behalf of any U.S. government agency, puts himself at risk of criminal prosecution and civil liability.

We have come a long way in the fight against violent extremists, and the road to victory will be longer still. I support a robust offensive to wage and prevail in this struggle. But as we confront those committed to our destruction, it is vital that we never forget that we are, first and foremost, Americans. The laws and values that have built our nation are a source of strength, not weakness, and we will win the war on terror not in spite of devotion to our cherished values, but because we have held fast to them.

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holymoses (2/15/2008)
Our world is nuanced. When you govern by bumper sticker, you get elected but also get into Iraq. When are we going to learn?

Good question. Because we all know that Newt Gingrich said that he wanted Medicare to wither on the vine, right?

I'm pleased to see you post this. If anything good comes of this Presidential race, I pray that it is a renewed civility in politics. I hope Obama doesn't attack McCain, just as I hope McCain doesn't go after Obama on Islam, socialism, etc. I hope these two men can finally keep it above the fray.

I'm not optimistic on either count, but I'm hopeful.

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Great post. I'm glad to see McCain giving a solid explanation for his vote and glad to see that this was not an example of election-year pandering.

It's common practice in politics to pick one or two votes out of context and try to smear the candidate unfairly, and as you said we'll probably see this happen to McCain.

That's unfortunate because McCain is clearly still opposed to waterboarding and torture, and his vote against this bill has to do with the legislation and not any change in his core principles.

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Ramen (2/15/2008)
Great post. I'm glad to see McCain giving a solid explanation for his vote and glad to see that this was not an example of election-year pandering.

It's common practice in politics to pick one or two votes out of context and try to smear the candidate unfairly, and as you said we'll probably see this happen to McCain.

That's unfortunate because McCain is clearly still opposed to waterboarding and torture, and his vote against this bill has to do with the legislation and not any change in his core principles.

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JDaveG (2/15/2008)
holymoses (2/15/2008)
Our world is nuanced. When you govern by bumper sticker, you get elected but also get into Iraq. When are we going to learn?

Good question. Because we all know that Newt Gingrich said that he wanted Medicare to wither on the vine, right?

I'm pleased to see you post this. If anything good comes of this Presidential race, I pray that it is a renewed civility in politics. I hope Obama doesn't attack McCain, just as I hope McCain doesn't go after Obama on Islam, socialism, etc. I hope these two men can finally keep it above the fray.

I'm not optimistic on either count, but I'm hopeful.

I'm not sure if he said he wanted it to "wither on the vine", but he did claim that his plan called for MORE money going to fund Medicare . . . .When, of course, it would be a considerable reduction when adjusted for inflation (STANDARD inflation, not the super inflation that applies to medical costs.)

And so it goes.

BTW, Obama put himself in a helluva pickle by promising McCain to stick with federal funding for the general election. I presume the purpose was to limit special interests from controlling the spending.

Of course, Obama has revolutionized campaign funding by appealing to an INCREDIBLE number of contributers, has accepted nothing (directly) from Lobbyists and, given the breadth of his sources, can hardly be accused of being beholden to anyone.

Now, McCain, who is short on cash, is calling Obama on his promise, while Clinton, who is not so bound, is ALSO claiming that Obama is going to break his promise so that she can either drill him for breaking a promise or claim that she is more electable because she WON'T be bound by the federal funding limitation.

I wonder how it would play if Obama essentially called them BOTH: "I'm going to keep my promise but Hillary, playing the politics as usual, is going to claim I can't be as competitive as she will because she, who has collected more lobbyist funding than anyone, is not going to be bound by the good faith limitations that Mr. McCain and I have committed to. And we are left to wonder what McCain would do if our rolls were reverse and he was rolling in private donations and his opponent was strapped?"

THEN, in the general election, he uses his incredibly motivated base (not to be confused with Huckabee's incredibly mundane bass . . . easy to learn, difficult to master, you know?) to get his message out through the grass routes and beat the socks of McCain in THAT kind of advertising.

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Ramen (2/15/2008)
Great post. I'm glad to see McCain giving a solid explanation for his vote and glad to see that this was not an example of election-year pandering.

It's common practice in politics to pick one or two votes out of context and try to smear the candidate unfairly, and as you said we'll probably see this happen to McCain.

That's unfortunate because McCain is clearly still opposed to waterboarding and torture, and his vote against this bill has to do with the legislation and not any change in his core principles.

All that being said, I had a conversation with someone over the weekend who's cousin is a ranger and I was essentially reminded that the CIA doesn't play by ANYONE'S rules. So I wonder if McCain wasn't actually being someone disingenuous with his explanation.

The CIA is going to do what the CIA is going to do, McCain's vote is not going to stop them from torturing anyone. So it might be somewhat of a pander when you get right down to it.

It also might be a vote to keep CIA agents who DON'T follow the military field manual from being criminally prosecuted.

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Good post HM. I truly think this election might be different (gasp) than previous ones. Obama seems to be a candidate that runs for himself, and not against someone. He has been beating Hillary by speaking to the people and winning them over, not by smearing her through "endorsed" commercials and propaganda lies.

McCain also beat his opponents through civil means. Romney, Thompson, and Paul seem like the bulldogs of that Rep party, in that they make their case by being better than the other guy, and not so much as being better for the people.

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charlestonchad (2/18/2008)
Good post HM. I truly think this election might be different (gasp) than previous ones. Obama seems to be a candidate that runs for himself, and not against someone. He has been beating Hillary by speaking to the people and winning them over, not by smearing her through "endorsed" commercials and propaganda lies.

McCain also beat his opponents through civil means. Romney, Thompson, and Paul seem like the bulldogs of that Rep party, in that they make their case by being better than the other guy, and not so much as being better for the people.

The most interesting thing about an Obama/McCain race is their history. They had a spat long before either of them had announced their 2008 candidacies. I think it was on finance reform. It quickly escalated and they just as quickly put things to rest.

McCain is unpredictable and can get testy. And Obama has already shown that he will not get pushed around.

Also, so far this cycle, every attempt to go negative has essentially backfired: Romney got double teamed by McCain and Huckabee when he when on the offensive, and Clinton completely lost the black vote, while not ultimately gaining white voters, after their clever introduction of race before South Carolina.

We're probaby naive, but maybe we'll see less negativity this year? Many on this will board notwithstanding.

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holymoses (2/18/2008)
I'm not sure if he said he wanted it to "wither on the vine", but he did claim that his plan called for MORE money going to fund Medicare . . . .When, of course, it would be a considerable reduction when adjusted for inflation (STANDARD inflation, not the super inflation that applies to medical costs.)

And so it goes.

Oh, he said it. The problem is that his context was the exact opposite of what he was quoted as saying.

The "wither on the vine" comment is what everyone hears, and it is quoted as "Newt Gingrich said he wants Medicare to 'wither on the vine.'"

What he ACTUALLY said was that his plan offered funding alternatives, and that the Medicare Bureaucracy was bloated, inefficient, and if offered against alternative plans could not compete. So he said:

"What do you think the health care financing administration is?" Gingrich asked. "It's a centralized command bureaucracy. It's everything we're telling Boris Yeltsin to get rid of. Now we don't get rid of it in round one because we don't think that's politically smart and we don't think that's the right way to go through a transition. But we believe it's going to wither on the vine because we think people are going to voluntarily leave it. Voluntarily."

IOW, he was quoted basically as wanting to kill Medicare, when in fact he was speaking of leaving the current system intact and offereng funding alternatives. And his point was that when offered the alternatives, he believed that the current system would go away because people would leave it on their own. So while he WAS in fact saying he did not like the current system, he was NOT saying "we're going to eliminate it," and in fact he was saying the opposite -- we'll offer it against what we believe is a better plan and give people a choice, and we think they'll take the alternative because it's better.

Newt Gingrich has a lot to criticize, but the way that soundbite is used is nothing short of slander.

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