Sunday, February 17, 2008

Compare and contrast. From the news section of today's New York Times:

Senator John McCain’s vote last week against a bill to curtail the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of harsh interrogation tactics disappointed human rights advocates who consider him an ally and led Democrats to charge that he was trying to please Republicans as he seeks to rally them around his presidential bid.
And from Nick Kristof's editorial, on today's op-ed page:

Consider torture. There was nary a vote in the Republican primary to be gained by opposing the waterboarding of swarthy Muslim men accused of terrorism. But Mr. McCain led the battle against Dick Cheney on torture, even though it cost him donations, votes and endorsements.

Even more than his time as a prisoner in Hanoi, that marked Mr. McCain’s most heroic moment. He risked his political career to protect Muslim terror suspects who constitute the most despised and voiceless people in America.

McCain's position on torture, in sum: he will risk his career by standing tall on the barricades against the Bush administration's depredations, right up until the moment when whatever he's doing might make an actual difference.

And now we start to see why so many Republicans are ticked off at McCain, even though he's got the nomination sewn up, for all practical purposes. In this matter, at least, he could be a mainstream Democrat.

Added later: To give credit where it's due: On a different matter, FISA immunity, the Democratic House leadership (though not the Senate) may be showing some unaccustomed backbone. It's too soon to tell. I still remember the first significant vote after the Dems took over Congress, in which they sent up a bill requiring Dubya to certify progress in order to keep the troops in Iraq --- a toothless measure to begin with --- and then promptly passed another with no conditions at all when even this casual nod to the power of Congress was too much for Dubya to accept.


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