January 6, 2005
[…T]his will become a “Democrats are soft and looking to score points” issue. I’ve given up. Complain, protest, organize and fund all you want; one more attack here and your neighbors will be lining up to torture somebody, anybody.Ezra of Pandagon:
Unfogged is right; barring a miracle of competence and media responsibility, opposing torture will end up making the Democrats look like we get the vapors whenever the menfolk whip out the cigars and talk terrorism. Our press flacks are ineffective, our caucus can’t stick to a message, and we don’t have a party leader charged with articulating our position to the public.Digby of Hullabaloo:
Doesn’t matter. Torture just isn’t something you compromise on. I’m as coldly political as the next guy, but not torture. That’s not part of the country I grew up believing in.
[T]he mere act of finally drawing that line in the sand, of saying “No More,” is the very thing that refutes the charge. It’s hemming and hawing and splitting the difference and “meeting halfway” and offering compromises on matters of principle that makes the charge of Democratic spinelessness believable. This isn’t about a special interest giving money or bending to the will of a powerful constituency. People can feel the difference. There is nothing weak about simply and forcefully standing up for what is right. […] I think it may just be a defining issue for Democrats.
It’s not that I believe that all Americans are horrified, or even a majority of Americans are horrified. Clearly, the dittoheads think it is just ducky. But that isn’t the point. Just because they aren’t horrified or even endorse it on some level doesn’t mean that they don’t know that it’s wrong. They do. And it is very uncomfortable to be put in the position of defending yourself when you know you are wrong. Even good people find ways, but it cuts a little piece out of their self-respect every time they do it.
Every person alive in America today grew up with the belief that torture is wrong. Popular culture, religion, folklore and every other form of cultural instruction for decades in this country has taught that it is wrong, from sermons and lectures to films about slavery to photographs of Auschwitz to crime shows about serial killers.  It is embedded in our consciousness. We teach our children that it is wrong to torture animals and other kids. We don’t say that there are exceptions for when the animals or kids are really, really bad. We have laws on the books that outright outlaw it. The words “cruel and unusual” are written into our constitution.
The problem is not that there isn’t a widely accepted admonition not to conduct torture, it’s that many people, as with all crimes, will choose to ignore the admonition under certain circumstances. However, that does not mean that they do not know that what they are doing is wrong. There is nothing surprising in that. It’s why we have laws.
The arguments for torture being raised by the right are rationalizations for what they know is immoral and illegal conduct. Their discomfort with the subject clearly indicates that they don’t really want to defend it. (Witness the pathetic dance that even that S&M freak Rush Limbaugh had to do after his comments were widely disseminated.) Will they admit that they know it’s wrong? Of course not. But when they take up their manly jihad and accuse the Democrats of being swooning schoolgirls they will also be forced to positively defend something that many of them know very well is indefensible. And every time they do that their credibility on values and morals is chipped away a little bit.
I don’t expect them to change their tune. Way too much of this comes from a defect in temperament and garden-variety racism and that’s not going to go away. But Democrats have to thicken their skins and be prepared for the usual attacks and insist over and over again that it is against the values and principles of the United States to torture people, period. It is not only right, it is smart.
As I wrote below, the opposition will bluster and fidget and scream bloody murder. But listen to the tenor of their arguments.  [The Wall Street Journal] rails against the “glib abuse of the word” as if they can run away from the issue by engaging in a game of semantics. They are reduced to claiming that unless we torture it will be unilateral disarmament. We, the most powerful military force the world has ever known, will be defeated by a bunch of third world religious misfits if we don’t engage in torturing suspects. Just who sounds weak?
 Maureen Dowd: “Before [Alberto Gonzales] helped President Bush circumvent the accords and reserve the right to do so ‘in this or future conflicts,’ you had to tune in to an old movie with Nazi generals or Vietcong guards if you wanted to see someone sneeringly shrug off the international treaty protecting prisoners from abuse. (‘You worthless running dog Chuck Norris! What do we care about your silly Geneva Conventions?’)”
 The Poor Man: “The point is this: ‘To protect subordinates should they be charged with torture, the memo advised that Mr. Bush issue a “presidential directive or other writing” that could serve as evidence, since authority to set aside the laws is “inherent in the president.”’ Alberto Gonzales thinks that the Magna Carta is liberal pablum.”