The second republican presidential primary debate aired last night on Fox News Channel. The questions in this second round were darted and controversial at the most, and intentional and misguided at the least. There were shining moments for all the front runners, including Giuliani's prosecutorial assault on Ron Paul, and Romney's Teflon-news-anchor ability to shirk off the tough questions.
The shining moment for me was in the hypothetical attack question. Every candidate with a chance had condoned the used of torture, or the more political correct "enhanced interrogation measures". Every candidate, except one.
When it comes to torture, one has to have a pretty insatiable blood lust to proudly announce to the world that we will do whatever it takes to save American lives. Seems like a logical enough answer. McCain says however, as a victim of a half-decade of torture at the hands of the Viet Cong, that "[we] could never gain as much from that torture as we would lose in world opinion."
McCain said that those with military service side with him because of the threat to U.S. soldiers who may be captured. "This is not about terrorists, it's about us, what kind of country we are."
He also said that at some point, victims will tell you whatever they think you want to hear, to stop the pain. Here is an impassioned plea to Americans, to not lose our humanity, and become the enemy.
And yet, in an arena full of blood lust, the audience cheers not this plea, but the use of torture..."doubling Guantanamo" as Romney calls for, and the hell with world opinion in the eyes of a unforgiving Giuliani. Such comments seem pandering and insincere in the wake of McCain's impassioned comments, that emanate from a body crippled at the hand of torture.
I believe that this one issue, which seems so small, proves to many that McCain is thoughtful and frank with the electorate, where other candidates will pander to the crowd for their insatiable blood lust for votes, losing our American humanity along the way.
We do not need a Jack Bauer, we need a Harry Truman understanding of the limits, and an understanding of who bears the burden of that limit. Since the buck stops with the POTUS, we need someone who has an understanding built on a lifetime of experience and moral authority to make that tough call. No other candidate proved to me to have the real gravitas to fully comprehend the question, of whether torture is acceptable. Only McCain "gets it", and it is clear, that the buck stops with him on this issue.
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