By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

McCain, Brown and torture (II)

One rather odd aspect of reports that Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown had said he would support waterboarding of suspected terrorists was that none of the stories I looked at — from the Boston Globe, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and the Associated Press — quoted Brown directly.

Michael Pahre noted that shortcoming in the comments. And though the AP did quote Brown in a story earlier today on a Senate debate sponsored by WTKK Radio (96.9 FM), I still wanted to hear from the Brown campaign myself.

This afternoon I talked with Brown campaign spokesman Felix Browne, who told me that Brown did not consider waterboarding to be torture. “He believes waterboarding is an enhanced-interrogation technique,” Browne said. “It’s hard, but it’s not torture. He does not believe that it’s torture.”

Browne also said he was pretty sure Brown had not discussed his position with U.S. Sen. John McCain, a staunch opponent of waterboarding who endorsed Brown earlier this week. “Obviously Sen. McCain and Sen. Brown are two different individuals,” Browne said.

And there I thought the matter would rest — except that, when I sought to clarify whether Sen. Brown would support waterboarding terrorism suspects, spokesman Browne realized he wasn’t entirely sure. So I put off writing this until he’d had a chance to check. Early this evening he e-mailed me this:

Waterboarding has been banned by executive order of the President. It would be up to the President to reauthorize its use. Scott Brown would support the President in whatever he decides.

Democratic Senate candidate Martha Coakley, for her part, used the WTKK debate to clarify her own opposition to waterboarding, as I noted in an update to my earlier item.

All that’s remaining is to hear from McCain — who, as I pointed out earlier, doesn’t just oppose waterboarding, but has gone out of his way to label it as torture, and to emphasize that U.S. forces actually executed Japanese officials at the end of World War II for waterboarding American prisoners.

This is no mere difference of opinion. McCain must choose between his endorsement of Brown and his moral revulsion over a practice regarded almost universally as torture. Will someone please put the question to him?

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  1. Harrybosch

    Given Brown’s recent proclivity to compare himself to JFK, and the fact that JFK isn’t here to comment on the matter, perhaps the words of Ted Sorensen, Kennedy’s legal counsel, might serve in his stead:

    “Virtually every lawyer worth his diploma knows that the United States is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions on War Crimes and the 1984 Convention Against Torture; that waterboarding is torture and that torture is illegal, regardless of pieces of paper from Justice Department lawyers who disgraced not only their country but their profession, a fact of which their respective Bar Associations should take note.”

  2. Neil

    Polling indicates that many of the same people who believe “enhanced interrogation” including water boarding is not torture, also believe Barack Obama was not born in Hawaii USA.

    It’s not surprising so many Americans believe water boarding is not torture because that is precisely what the Cheney/Bush administration has been telling us that four years since the news of torture was leaked.

  3. Harrybosch

    “U.S. forces actually executed Japanese officials at the end of World War II for waterboarding American prisoners.”

    Ironic too, then, JFK’s desperate efforts to elude capture by the Japanese, on behalf of he and his men, after the sinking of his boat.

    Because it is certainly possible that the young Lieutenant had information that might have been helpful to the Japanese, who would have extracted that information “by any means possible . . . by any means necessary.”

  4. mike_b1

    Brown is probably too busy combing Facebook to see what a few King Philip HS sophomores said about him to worry about such pesky things as human rights.

  5. I am guessing that you feel McCain should withdraw his endorsement because of one issue. It’s a big issue, you’re correct, but what about all the Democrats and liberals who criticize pro-lifers as being “single issue voters?” I feel, as do many, that abortion is moral revolting just as you feel about waterboarding. So, I hope you and your fellow liberals never criticize others for opposing someone because of “just one issue.”

    Furthermore, Barack Obama is against gay marriage. I assume you and many others consider this a major civil rights issue. Yet, you supported Obama.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Brian: I am looking at McCain’s own words, not to mention his personal experience with torture. That does not lend itself to simple analogies, unless you think references to Japanese officers’ being executed is just garden-variety campaign rhetoric.

  6. Harrybosch

    “I feel, as do many, that abortion is moral revolting just as you feel about waterboarding.”

    Not to get off on a tangent, but the problem with abortion as a political issue is that making them illegal does not make them go away. Abortions have been going on for thousands of years, legal or not. They will continue to go on, legal or not. They were going on in the time of Christ.

    Should abortion once again be made illegal, then women who want them will once again seek out unsavory characters to perform them, putting their lives and health in jeapardy.

    But holier-than-thou folks who find them “morally revolting” will feel better about themselves. So, there’s that.

    And only that.

  7. CAvard

    Here’s my nitpick concern: “Browne also said he was pretty sure Brown had not discussed his position with U.S. Sen. John McCain, a staunch opponent of waterboarding.”

    But didn’t John McCain supports the veto Of Anti-Waterboarding Bill back in February 2008?

    How anti-waterboarding is he? Is there something I missed? Just being honest. I think that’s a question that needs to be asked/answered.

    My other favorite was when McCain went on The Daily Show back in 2005 and told Stewart “Israel doesn’t torture.” Alison Weir, of If Americans Only Knew, rebuked McCain’s comment in an open letter to Jon Stewart.

    I watched that episode and I was amazed he gave McCain a pass for that. But that’s going off tangent.

  8. Hi Dan, I read this in yesterday’s Lowell Sun They don’t do an exact quote either, but it might be a good lead.

  9. rrsafety

    Seems that the Globe is getting antsy with Martha Coakley. Brian McGrory’s latest is pretty tough:

    “If you’re a registered voter in Massachusetts, your friendly Democratic Senate candidate, Martha Coakley, is sticking her thumb in your eye. Coakley, in exquisitely diva-like form, is refusing all invitations to debate her Republican opponent in the race, Scott Brown, unless a third-party candidate with no apparent credentials is included on the stage. She may also require a crystal bowl of orange-only M&Ms in her dressing room, but we haven’t gotten that far yet. Her demands have led to an astonishing result: there will be just one — that’s one — live televised debate in the Boston media market this general election season.”

  10. Harrybosch

    “Seems that the Globe is getting antsy with Martha Coakley. Brian McGrory’s latest is pretty tough:”

    I too enjoyed the column and it’s good to see McGrory back. I resented mightily his dismissing the Libertarian Kennedy as “a third-party candidate with no apparent credentials.”

    Who the hell is he to determine who has the credentials and who does not? Last I checked, you just had to be thirty and a citizen.

    And last I checked, they were about the only “credentials” the most recent person who occupied the office held at the time of his election.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Harry: In one respect McGrory gives Kennedy too much credit: he’s not a third-party candidate; he’s a no-party candidate. If Kennedy had done the harder work of getting listed on the Libertarian line, he could have helped restore the Libertarians’ major-party status.

      I’d like to see a variety of match-ups, and yes, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to see one televised debate featuring only Coakley and Brown. But McGrory — and the Patriot Ledger — are kidding themselves if they think we’re going to learn a single thing from a Coakley-Brown debate that we haven’t learned from a Coakley-Brown-Kennedy debate.

  11. Harrybosch

    Agree on all points, Dan. But it’s clear (the Rasmussen poll, notwithstanding) that all Coakley needs to do is to keep her head down and the job is hers.

    And despite the media’s desire for copy, it’s hard to criticize her for doing just that.

  12. Dunque

    So, Dan, you get yourself all worked up about a candidate who supports interrogation techniques such as waterboarding.

    Where’s the rage over a candidate who actively lobbies for the continued imprisonment of unjustly convicted innocents?

    Perhaps one can be forgiven for thinking that your rage is highly selective.

  13. Ben

    Dan: Libertarians currently have major party status. You’re half-right though – it would have been harder for him to get on the ballot as a Libertarian. The cost of getting on the ballot as a “Libertarian” rather than a minor party or unenrolled, would have been about $60,000 vs. $15,000. Kennedy is going to instead appear on the ballot under the “Liberty” party designation.

    The Libertarian gripe is that the law actually requires significantly more effort for third parties with “major party status” to get on the ballot than it is for the D’s and R’s.

    Regarding Coakley, she is willing to duck debates even when Joe Kennedy is invited. Scott Brown and Joe Kennedy had agreed to the League of Women Voters Jan 13th debate at Faneuil Hall. The League canceled the debate when Coakley wouldn’t agree to it.

  14. O'Rion

    Maybe Brown liked what he saw in the Rasmussen poll: 58% would like to see the Undies Bomber waterboarded/tortured (even though he’s talking!).

    Speaking of McCain I found it odd that WBZ Radio went with his endorsement story for an entire news cycle(even through the overnight).
    Was this news: what GOP Senator isn’t endorsing Brown? And surprise, Coakley has Vicki Kennedy’s.

  15. RMD

    From today’s Herald:
    Brown continued to paint himself as a social moderate who is tight-fisted with taxpayer dollars and hawkish on national security. He said there may be cases in which U.S. citizens should be treated as enemy combatants if they have undergone terrorism training outside the country.

    “Even though they hold the status of U.S. citizens, now they’ve gone to a different level,” he said. “They’re joining a known terrorist group and almost saying, ‘Even though I’m born here . . . I want to be (elsewhere) instead.’ ”

  16. Steve Stein

    Dan: “If Kennedy had done the harder work of getting listed on the Libertarian line

    I am informed by George Phillies that it wasn’t lack of “hard work” that kept Kennedy from running as a Libertarian. It was lack of foresight – Kennedy was registered “Unenrolled” on the legal day of record.

    Shades of Curt Schilling!

  17. Peter Porcupine

    Mr. Stein – regarding shades…Dr. Gerry Dembrowski, former Liberty Caucus member, reregistered as a Republican two days before the deadline in order to run for Governor to ‘use the husk’ of the GOP per his then-campaign manager (who confided all this to me without knowing that I AM, in fact, a Republican). He later learned he’d have to get a number of delegates at the convention to vote for him as well and withdrew.

    It fascinates me that people put themselves forward for ‘top ticket’ jobs without bothering to learn the rules of the game they intend to play.

  18. Ben

    RMD: It sounds like Scott Brown wants to strip US citizens of their Constitutional rights and send them off to Gitmo without trial. Unless I missed something, he is boldly going where no Cheney attorney has gone before – real wacko territory. Why isn’t this headline-making news?

  19. Scott Brown’s commercials actually say that he’s specifically for waterboarding because our Constitution doesn’t protect non-citizens.

    What about natural-born American citizens as terrorists? Can Scott Brown see through that sticky mess? Would he waterboard American citizens?

    I don’t think anyone has posed this question to him.

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