Romney's Tortured Logic
It was certainly the most riveting moment of the debate. It may have been one of the most riveting moments of the entire presidential campaign. A campaign that's so frontloaded, so hyper-paced, that yesterday's news is old news, and last week's
news is the Holy Roman Empire. Still, some moments are worth the extra shelf life. This was one of them.
There was Mitt Romney on stage in St. Petersburg, Fla., still trying to play the tough guy, refusing to rule out waterboarding as an interrogation technique. Refusing even to say that waterboarding is torture.
And there was John McCain, a genuine tough guy, who knows more about torture than anybody else on that stage -- more than anyone would ever want to know. McCain with his jaws grinding and his voice rising, telling Romney just how wrong he was.
And not just wrong, but misguided. Dangerous. Unworthy of America's values. And he could have added one more thing:
illogical. Romney's position simply doesn't hold together.
Mitt Romney says he's against "torture." But he refuses to say where he'd draw that line, and he won't rule out a specific technique that the civilized world has recognized as torture for generations.
You can't be against the (word "torture" and not be against the actions that constitute torture. It's like saying, "I'm a vegetarian, but I'm not going to rule out eating hamburgers."
It just doesn't make sense.
Let's back up a step. Why does Mitt Romney feel he has to say he's against torture in the first place? Well, for one thing, torture is against the law -- international law, and our own military code of justice.
But I'm betting there's more to it than that. I'm betting that Mitt Romney still recognizes on some level -- enough to pay it lip service, at least -- that torturing people does violate our principles.
And that those are principles worth supporting.
So let's back up another step. Why are those principles worth supporting?
First, because they demonstrate the kind of country we are, the kind of people we are -- or aspire to be.
But there's a second, equally important reason: We support those principles because it shows the rest of the world that there really is a difference between us and the terrorists -- a difference that's absolutely vital when we want the world's help in (fighting those terrorists.
But Mitt Romney's position on torture turns that logic totally on its head. Mitt Romney's position is that we don't want the rest of the world to know there's a difference between us and the terrorists. Or at least we want them to think that we might be doing the same kinds of awful things that terrorists do.
This is supposed to make us safer.
John McCain doesn't buy it. I'm with John McCain.
The worst thing about Mitt Romney's position on torturing prisoners is the harm it would do to us.
And the best thing about Mitt Romney's position? It's Mitt Romney's position -- so there's every chance even he doesn't believe it.
Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.