Thursday, February 14, 2008

Shea Says "McCain Wimps Out" ... [UPDATED]

... by voting against a bill banning the use of torture by the CIA.

Yeah, because that's the MOST likely explanation for McCain's vote.

After all, John McCain has shown himself to be such a "wimp" throughout his career when it comes to voting for a bill with which others in his party disagree. Because John McCain has shown himself to be such a "wimp" on the issue of torture in the face of an electoral onslaught of GOP candidates favoring waterboarding and other "enhanced interrogation techniques" during the primaries.

Anyone who's spent 5 seconds here knows that I'm no John McCain fan. And I'm not sure I can even vote for him in good conscience given his position on ESCR (as I've stated before, in the Ohio primary, I'll either vote for Huckabee or Paul).

But McCain has made perfectly clear his opposition to torture, and at potential great political cost to himself. Throughout the primary season when his position could have cost him the support of voters, he stood against torture while many of the other GOP candidates were trying to out-Jack-Bauer one another. He pushed for and won a torture ban that forbade U.S. Military personnel from conducting such activity. And he fought against Administation attempts to create CIA exceptions to that ban. I think he's earned the benefit of the doubt on this one.

Something else must've been going on with this bill to cause McCain to vote against it. It's certainly not because the "Maverick" has suddenly "wimped out".

I suppose there's the risk that the Democrats will use this vote to try to show McCain as being "against torture before he was for it". I DARE them to try that. I can hear McCain's response now:
You listen to me. When people like you were safe here at home calling people like me "baby killer", I was experiencing first-hand what torture is. [Goes into litany of some of the techniques used against him] So, I am well aware - certainly moreso than you - of the assault on human dignity that torture represents. For that reason, my record throughout my career is second-to-none in championing the cause of human freedom and human dignity. I have sponsored and won passage of a bill to ban torture by our overseas personnel when doing so was very unpopular among many in my party. I have stood toe-to-toe against the present Administration in fighting against a CIA exception to that torture ban. I have staked my very political career on opposing policies that violate our Nation's deepest values.

I'll tell you what, my friend, when you've suffered through 1/100th of what I've been through, THEN come preaching to me with all your preening sanctimony about how I was AGAINST torture before I was FOR it!

Now Mark accuses McCain of "doubletalk" for this statement of why he opposed this particular bill:
The conference report would go beyond any of the recent laws that I just mentioned – laws that were extensively debated and considered – by bringing the CIA under the Army Field Manual, extinguishing thereby the ability of that agency to employ any interrogation technique beyond those publicly listed and formulated for military use. I cannot support such a step because I have not been convinced that the Congress erred by deliberately excluding the CIA. I believe that our energies are better directed at ensuring that all techniques, whether used by the military or the CIA, are in full compliance with our international obligations and in accordance with our deepest values. What we need is not to tie the CIA to the Army Field Manual, but rather to have a good faith interpretation of the statutes that guide what is permissible in the CIA program.
(emphasis added)

One commenter at Mark's blog - again, someone who is NOT a fan of McCain - seeks to set Mark straight:
It's very clear that McCain doesn't want the CIA committing war crimes or torturing people. He comes right out and says this in the quote.

What he is saying is that the CIA should be permitted to practice other interrogation techniques than those listed in the army field manual. He would want these techniques to be in line with international law, but he does not want to tie the CIA's hands to a limited selection of acceptable techniques when there may well be other acceptable techniques that could be used. In fact, one might speculate that there may be some techniques - perfectly acceptable ones - that take advantage of the fact that the CIA is secret. I don't mean that there are immoral techniques like torture that the CIA could use because nobody would know about it. I simply mean that I am sure there are different things you can say to a person in one context than in another...
With the number of people over at Mark's blog beginning their defense of McCain's record on torture with the disclaimer "I don't like McCain", it appears Mark's unfair criticism may succeed in doing what nothing else has: rallying previously McCain-doubting conservative Catholics to John McCain's cause.

Some comments, calling into question the good faith of those taking a particular side in an argument, warrant a verbal (if not a literal) punch in the nose.

Good thing our buddy Dale is around instead to answer such BS commentary in a calm and reasoned fashion. Good on ya, Dale.

For whatever reason, Dale seems to have the magic touch when it comes to Mark. Something Dale wrote caused Mark to sorta back off the intensity of his criticism of McCain's vote, even though Mark continues to hold the line that McCain's vote was an unprincipled attempt to garner support from the GOP base.

Nevertheless, for whatever reason, Dale seems to have some sort of soothing effect where Mark is concerned. I think I'll start calling him "the Shea Whisperer".

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At 2/14/2008 11:37 AM, Anonymous paul zummo said...

Yeah, there's a lot that can be said about McCain, but wimp is not one of them. Apparently his objection had more to do with how broad the ban was and how it dealt with intelligence agencies, rather than the matter of banning waterboarding itself. In other words, it was a jurisdictional objection, so to speak.

At 2/14/2008 3:52 PM, Blogger Henry Karlson said...

Yeah. We couldn't do a unilateral ban on torture, now could we? That's too broad.

We always need the option open.

No, this shows the true mentality of McCain. It is right in line with his acceptance of ESCR while claiming to be pro-life. It is the same kinds of "yes, but...." he makes to allow for wrong.

At least that is my view. As one can also see on Shea's blog.

At 2/14/2008 4:29 PM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

Yeah, don't bother reading what McCain actually said, Henry. Don't bother trying to jibe this with his entire record on the issue of torture. Just ascribe the worst possible motives. You and Shea should get along swimmingly together.

What McCain's position comes down to is this: the CIA is not the military; the military has a prescribed set of interrogation techniques that it can utilize; McCain doesn't think the CIA should be necessarily limited to those techniqes; but, whatever techniques the CIA does use should be in compliance with international law.

So, what's the frickin' problem? People are being purposefully obtuse on this in order to justify saying "He's in favor of torture" when they know that to be a damned lie.

At least that is my view. As one can also see on Shea's blog.

At 2/14/2008 5:16 PM, Blogger Darwin said...

The debate about this particular ammendment is a classic example of sentiment over substance. McCain is not arguing that the CIA should torture anyone or that it should use waterboarding or any other specific technique. He's arguing that the army field manual is not the appropriate guide for them, even though it also forbids these techniques.

As memory serves, one of the things in the army field manual which one might want to exempt the CIA from is that soldiers are forbidden from giving POWs preferential treatment based on their willingness to cooperate. Thus, if the army field manual were imposed on the CIA, they would be (at least technically) forbidden to offer a detainee special food, visits, etc. in return for cooperation.

Would that be so very horrible at a moral level?

At 2/14/2008 5:24 PM, Blogger Dale P. said...

Except that your analogy over at Mark's also fell flat, Mr. Karlson.

There's a kind of Manichaeism working its way into some of the criticism of McCain on this issue, and it's not pleasant to watch.

At 2/14/2008 5:31 PM, Blogger Henry Karlson said...


Please elaborate further. I am curious what Manichaean arguments people are using against McCain.

At 2/14/2008 5:50 PM, Anonymous Christopher Woods said...

It's a little unnerving how quickly this issue gets to be the private fiefdom of the intellectually pure. At best, I'm lukewarm towards candidate McCain but I'm really not buying the wimp out narrative. I went into some detail on this on Rod Dreher's blog and also on Mark Shea's and while I prefaced almost everything I wrote with, torture is morally wrong I somehow ran afoul anti-torture GoodThink. All I did was point out what I felt was a weak link in the case against torture. Electoral politics is mightily depressing.

At 2/14/2008 6:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So now McCain is not pure enough for Mark on the torture issue? Reading Church history would be a ball by this standard considering the number of popes, church councils and saints over the past thousand years or so who authorized the use of torture. I await with eager anticipation Mark's fulminations against the Rubber Hose Church.

At 2/14/2008 9:40 PM, Blogger Jeff Miller said...

Though there is another major problem with McCain's defense of this vote. For one he say he wants to allow the CIA to perform other interrogation techniques in conformance with international law. Though he also wants to close down Gitmo and have all the prisoners come here.

The CIA can't operate in our own country so his defense becomes nonsense. There will be no CIA interrogation unless they are done in the country where they are captured and holding them there for prolonged interrogation is just not going to happen.

At 2/15/2008 8:04 AM, Blogger Dale P. said...


Sure. I was using it more colloquially, but it boils down to this: one has to be absolutely pure on an issue, or one is an agent of the outer darkness. No explanations allowed.

Obviously, dualistic thinking applies on a whole host of issues, but torture was yesterday's hot topic.

At 2/15/2008 8:05 AM, Blogger Dale P. said...


As I said at my blog, it's not magic. Just a strong friendship and mutual respect.

I'm hoping he turns his most recent comment to me in the combox into a post. It's a good look at the issue.

At 2/15/2008 9:00 AM, Blogger Henry Karlson said...


So you would say this dualism is also present in the abortion debates? That those who oppose it as an intrinsic evil are dualists?

I am trying to understand your position. And see if you look at it the same on other issues or only here with McCain.

I do agree, however; a lot of political debates are dualistic, and there is an over-riding dualism in our society. The party system itself helps reinforce this dualism with members of one party often looking at the other as "the evil one."

But I don't think that is exactly what people are saying of McCain. I know I am not.

At 2/15/2008 9:26 AM, Blogger Tito said...

I like Mark Shea, but sometimes I feel like I'm reading a tortured argument a la the Archbishop of Canterbury.

It's like listening to Greenspan. You think you know what he's saying but it's actually the opposite. (this is an analogy, not an indictement on Mark).


At 2/15/2008 9:49 AM, Blogger Darwin said...


Wouldn't the fact that pro-lifers often lend conditional support to people who agree with them enough to move the ball forward but do not aggree with them completely (examples would include Bush, McCain, and indeed most "pro-life" politicians) tend to suggest that they are in fact not dualistic on the issue.

True, there tends to be an insistence on defining people as "pro-life" or "not pro-life" (which I understand you don't like, except when you declare people "are NOT pro-life") but underneith the labels it seems to me that there is a mentality which is evaluative rather than dualistic.

The claim about some anti-torture advocates becoming dualistic in their approach seems to be based on a tendency (exemplified here) to insist that if one opposes one measure which is defined as "anti-torture" that one must therefore be a "torture apologist" or member of the "rubber hose right". Despite the fact that McCain has consistently fought much of his own party all the way down the line, we now have people insisting that he must at root have no problem with torture at all, and completely discounting the possibility that he may honestly think that the ammendment in question was not the best solution to the problem.

That should hardly shock us. There are anti-abortion pieces of legislation that many think are not actually a good idea because of their approach -- why can it not be that there are anti-torture pieces of legislation that are not well conceived to achieve their aims?

At 2/15/2008 10:49 AM, Blogger Henry Karlson said...


On the other hand, there are many people, opposed to abortion, who will say someone who is pro-choice or votes for a candidate who is pro-choice is evil, and so, while they might allow or ignore elements of the Gospel of Life, it just shows their concern is more about abortion and turn IT to be the point of dualism over anything else.

So, I think there are people on both sides which are dualist.

But I don't see it the case here with McCain. They are not saying he is "evil incarnate," they are saying, from how they understand him, he is inconsistent. And it looks like he is able to give up "values" for expediency. That is dangerous no matter which side of the aisle one is from. If one holds to some values but thinks political or other factors justify sacrificing them, something to me is wrong. You might not agree with some of us in seeing McCain did it. But from how he holds his position in other issues, and how quickly he gives way to things which counter his supposed values, to me at least, it is what one should expect from him.

At 2/15/2008 12:11 PM, Anonymous Tom McKenna said...

The reason the folks who want to call all coercion "torture" are dualistic or "Manichaean" is that unlike abortion, where to do the act itself is to do that which is intrinsically evil, with coercion it is not so. There are gradations of coercion, from mild sleep deprivation or playing rock music, all the way up to full blown rubber hose and thumbscrew treatment.

The Church does not prohibit all coercion; only "torture." Mark and the rest of the BDS folks don't want to engage in the traditional task of moral theology in discerning what is to be considered torture and what is not.

It's much easier to say all coercion=torture and excommunicate anyone who wants to engage in the tough work of moral theology by drawing distinctions and elucidating principles of action. Fr. Brian Harrison, who possesses a pontifical doctorate of theology and who is a professor of theology at a Pontifical University (and who therefore know more about theology than Mark and me and most of the Catholic blogosphere combined) demonstrates the reasoned approach to exploring this topic that Mark despises: I recognize, of course, that for daring implicitly to question the position taken by Papa Mark and the combox cardinalate, good Fr. Harrison, defender of Humanae vitae and an orthodox exponent of Vatican II, is now naught but a cynical member of the rubber hose right.


At 2/16/2008 2:07 AM, Blogger Christopher said...

Wait, wait -- you mean I missed yet another Mark Shea post on torture replete with manufactured ("this is what he REALLY means") quotes and imbuing devious motives to those who question him?


At 2/16/2008 9:08 AM, Blogger Dymphna said...

Mark Shea has gotten such a bee in his bonnet about this topic. He's become like my Jehovah's Witness relatives. We could be talking about how green the greass is and it always goes back to their pet obsessions. I politely ignore them. That's the best that can be said for Shea as well.

At 2/16/2008 9:12 AM, Blogger Dale P. said...

Apologies for omitting this earlier, Jay:

Thanks for the kind words! Much appreciated.


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