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Apr 15 2014

The Torture Debate in the GOP

Andrew Sullivan makes a really interesting point about Rand Paul running for president, which is that if he does make a run — and he’s obviously going to — it will force the issue of torture out into the open. His opponents will undoubtedly raise the issue to attack him.

But the one place where the debate has not really broken out is in the political party that embraced those war crimes – the GOP. Yes, John McCain took on the torture crowd in 2008 and won the nomination. But his successor, Mitt Romney, pledged to “double Gitmo” and bring torture back. Very few Republican writers want to confront the topic; Charles Krauthammer actually favors the setting up of a specific torture unit, without pondering whether its shirts should be brown. Torture enthusiasts, like Marc Thiessen, are given perches at the Washington Post, while war criminals like Cheney and Hayden are given endless platforms on the Sunday morning talk shows.

But if Rand Paul runs for president, a debate will surely have to break out. David Corn – is David trying to kill off Paul’s candidacy or trumpet it? - digs not so deep again to discover unequivocal hostility to the torture of the Bush-Cheney years in some interviews Paul did in 2009. Encouragingly, Paul won’t have any truck with the newspeak echoed by the craven New York Times.

Once his opponents attack him on this, and they will, he’ll be forced to respond. And that will force the issue out into the open. And that will be a very good thing.

16 comments

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  1. 1
    John Pieret

    that will force the issue out into the open. And that will be a very good thing.

    Assuming that a majority of Americans accept that torture is a bad thing …

    Otherwise we could just be the 800 lb. gorilla who thinks torture is ok.

  2. 2
    pocketnerd

    Once his opponents attack him on this, and they will, he’ll be forced to respond. And that will force the issue out into the open. And that will be a very good thing.

    … unless, of course, Rand Paul decides accountability for torture is less important than becoming president. I suspect the talking points will be mealy-mouthed vagaries like “Well, of course I’m against torture, but that was all ten years ago now… no point launching witch-hunts so far after the fact… besides, what we should focus on is CUTTING TAXES! Because taxation is the real injustice.”

    Let’s not kid ourselves: Libertarians don’t have a great track record when it comes to human rights issues that don’t affect affluent white males.

  3. 3
    Broken Things

    During the 2012 campaign, Ron Paul was at a gathering where people famously cheered at the idea that someone ill and without health insurance should be allowed to die. I do not know whether the younger Paul supports this position or not but he has the same Randian proclivities as his father. It would quite a feat of cognitive dissonance to oppose torture but support letting people die from neglect.

  4. 4
    Raging Bee

    David Corn … digs not so deep again to discover unequivocal hostility to the torture of the Bush-Cheney years in some interviews Paul did in 2009.

    “Unequivocal” hostility would mean deserting the party that consistently enabled and supported the torture in the first place. Has Rand Paul left the Republican Party? No? Then he’s not being “unequivocal.” And that’s why the torture advocates won’t bother answering him — they know they won’t have to, and so does he.

  5. 5
    Dunc

    It would quite a feat of cognitive dissonance to oppose torture but support letting people die from neglect.

    Not for a (g)libertarian, as long as it’s the (federal) government doing the torturing.

  6. 6
    raven

    The Torture Debate in the GOP

    For a minute there, I thought this was going to be a GOP debate on which groups to torture next.

    It’s not but if it was, that wouldn’t have suprised me.

  7. 7
    barry21

    I was annoyed to see John Yoo quoted (albeit, in Politico) about the Guardian & Post sharing a Pulitzer over their Snowden reporting.

    Yoo should be a pariah at the very least, and probably a prisoner, not a professor of law at Berkeley.

  8. 8
    barry21

    BTW – in his quote, Yoo referred to the Snowden revelations as “sensationalism”.

  9. 9
    dogmeat

    Not for a (g)libertarian, as long as it’s the (federal) government doing the torturing.

    Leads to an interesting question. Would Paul be in favor of torture if it was done by private contractors in a competitive market driven by the all powerful invisible hand?

  10. 10
    pocketnerd

    Leads to an interesting question. Would Paul be in favor of torture if it was done by private contractors in a competitive market driven by the all powerful invisible hand?

    Sounds good to me. After all, if they feel their rights are being violated, the tortured could always file a civil suit!

  11. 11
    Dunc

    Would Paul be in favor of torture if it was done by private contractors in a competitive market driven by the all powerful invisible hand?

    I’d guess not if it was the federal government paying the bill. If it’s a state government, that’s a “State’s Rights” issue. If it’s on behalf of a corporation or wealthy individual and the victim can be considered to have agreed to something which stipulated that might be a possible outcome (possibly on page 397 of a “click-wrap” license agreement), or they’re in prison or on welfare, your guess is as good as mine…

  12. 12
    Michael Heath

    I’m a fan of Andrew Sullivan, but his prediction here is naively idiotic, with history demonstrating why.

    Rand Paul will not make an indictment of the Bush Administration a primary plank in his campaign. He hasn’t in the past and neither did his dad. They both instead promote having a few positions common to many liberals, but without actually rallying for those positions. They’ll mouth the words, but they won’t effectively take up the cause.

    There could be some small benefit from Sen. Paul’s running, but it will dissipate soon-after.

    Consider Ron Paul’s primary debate performances when running for president. He was mostly shut out of the debates. He did get a few short opportunities to falsify competing Republican presidential’s candidates claims regarding the root causes for 9/11. Rep. Paul also revealed the CIA and State Departments reasons which make the conservative Christian perspective promoted by the other candidates appear bigoted, jingoistic, and idiotic. But these few exposures was to an audience of conservatives; conservatives that are very capable and more than willing to ignore or deny inconvenient facts. Facts which were soon forgotten after the debates and certainly after Paul lost the nominations.

    The Pauls are conservative-libertarians, with an emphasis on conservatism. They need the votes of conservatives to win at a national level. So their political identification is merely a cute way to distinguish themselves from a branding perspective In the whole scheme of things neither effectively changes anything of any significance. They’re merely conservatives doing what libertarians do to get some attention when promoting common-cause liberal issues, wanking-off in public – where few join them.

  13. 13
    pocketnerd

    Thus Spake ZaraMichael Heath, #12:

    Rand Paul will not make an indictment of the Bush Administration a primary plank in his campaign. He hasn’t in the past and neither did his dad. They both instead promote having a few positions common to many liberals, but without actually rallying for those positions. They’ll mouth the words, but they won’t effectively take up the cause.

    The Pauls are conservative-libertarians, with an emphasis on conservatism. They need the votes of conservatives to win at a national level. So their political identification is merely a cute way to distinguish themselves from a branding perspective In the whole scheme of things neither effectively changes anything of any significance. They’re merely conservatives doing what libertarians do to get some attention when promoting common-cause liberal issues, wanking-off in public – where few join them.

    Ah, yes. Whenever the hypocrisy of a libertarian is spotlighted, it’s easily explained away — obviously he’s not a Real True Libertarian™.

    Where can I meet some of these Real True Libertarians™ who are, even when it’s not politically convenient, consistently outspoken opponents of torture, the demonstrable racial bias of the justice system, the strangling of women’s reproductive rights, and other things that don’t directly affect privileged whiticans?

  14. 14
    barry21

    @13 – you could try starting in Las Vegas. Penn Jillette seems to conform to that description. That’s only one, though. I don’t know where the rest lurk.

  15. 15
    Area Man

    Encouragingly, Paul won’t have any truck with the newspeak echoed by the craven New York Times.

    It’s a good thing we have Andrew Sullivan to make sure that the the liberal media, too, gets its share of the blame for torture.

  16. 16
    Michael Heath

    pocketnerd writes:

    Ah, yes. Whenever the hypocrisy of a libertarian is spotlighted, it’s easily explained away — obviously he’s not a Real True Libertarian™.

    This misconstrues what I wrote and then has me taking a position opposite of what I argue. That’s ironic because I’ve had a number of debates in this very forum arguing with libertarians where I’ve argued that the Pauls are both libertarians, contra these libertarians’ who wish the Pauls were instead ‘no true Scotsmen’.

    But it’s also true that both Pauls demonstrate the same psychological profile of conservatives; where this is not uncommon within the libertarian movement. There’s also another wing of libertarianism that doesn’t suffer from this form of defective thinking, that wing is sometimes referred to as liberaltarianism.

    That more liberal wing holds some positions in libertarian-friendly think tanks, but they have virtually no influence on our politics or our public policy. They’re always wanking off. It’s the conservative wing of libertarianism that now wields some power, e.g., Glenn Beck, the Koch Brothers, the Pauls; but it’s power that’s effectively wielded in service to conservatism and the Republican party, and not libertarianism or the Libertarian party.

    So no, I never claimed or insinuated the Pauls are not real libertarians. Not only do I assert they are, but point out they belong to the only wing of the movement that has any influence. Where that influence is aggregated into support of the objectives of conservatism and the GOP.

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