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Knocking Down a McCain Rumor

The silly season is upon us. Rumors are flying everywhere about additions (and subtractions) from presidential campaigns.

The Fix, as always, seeks to cut through the clutter and provide Fixistas (?) with the straight dope.

A rumor that reached us today had Scott Reed, oft-quoted Republican consultant and campaign manager for then Sen. Bob Dole's (R-Kan.) 1996 presidential bid, joining Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) presidential campaign staff.

But Reed is not affiliated in any formal way with the campaign, according to spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker.

"There is no plan for Mr. Reed to join the campaign team," Hazelbaker said when contacted by The Fix. "He is a donor and we appreciate his financial support and the support of so many who believe John McCain is the only candidate with the experience, judgment and character to lead as commander in chief from day one."

While Reed is not playing a formal role he is a longtime McCain supporter and is close friends with campaign manager Rick Davis.

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 1, 2007; 4:44 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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Next: The Line: Casting Doubts on Clinton's Inevitability?


We are not talking physical, we are talking psychological. Being tortured does not necessarily make you an expert as to whether it is effective or not. In McCain's case, it does make you someone that we should respect and have a huge debt of gratitude toward. The legality of waterboarding is questionable under current US law/rulings but not absolute one way or the other.

Call it what you will. The study proved nothing about the efficacy of harsh interrogations (based on the conclusion of the study I quoted above). The fact remains that there is nobody in the intelligence community that is going to publicly state any truths about the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of specific harsh interrogation techniques, especially if there was any that produced results. The ONLY response someone would give is that these techniques are not effective.

Posted by: dave | November 2, 2007 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Nice rationalisation, dave. A study that is specifically intended to improve interrogation techniques is in fact *entirely* just an exercise in reverse psychology to throw off the "enemies." Are you actually running this through the logic centers in your brain?

Whatever helps you sleep at night in your pen. Animal.

Posted by: roo_P | November 2, 2007 1:14 PM | Report abuse

I may be completely wrong as to why the AG nominee refuses to answer this question, but here goes. The CIA and others that have used these measures could be prosecuted. The military has not used this and pretty well know physical torture does not work, it only gets what they want to hear, McCain knows this because it happened to him.

Posted by: lylepink | November 2, 2007 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, when I read "Some people get off se*ually from torturing other people-- quite a few, it appears, from the news reports-- and that's why we have the 'actions of the last thousand years or so.'", and when you asked "Is sadism really the model you want for America?", I took that to mean what I said.

So your other arguement is that it exists because it helps keep "citizens of a police state cowed and fearful." So if a non-totalitarian government is doing this but not in an open manner (like the US and a number of other countries are attempting to do), how would that keep people cowed and fearful? It seems to me that only would work if it was "openly practiced" and if the citizens of that country actually feared that they would be subjected to this. I don't know anybody that fears that the US government will waterboard them (barring them taking up arms with al-qaeda). I continue to maintain that the main reason it continues to exist is because it is somewhat effective.

Posted by: dave | November 2, 2007 11:47 AM | Report abuse

No --what I said is that torture is very effective at keeping citizens of a police state cowed and fearful. So course it continues to exist. But you will notice it is only openly practiced by totalitarian states.

Posted by: drindl | November 2, 2007 11:17 AM | Report abuse

"Waterboarding was used during the Spanish Inquisition, by fascists, by nazis, by all the basest, most inhuman and savage regimes, that were modelled on keeping their populatons in a perpetual state of terror and preventing dissent."

So was putting people in jail. Some people get off by putting people in captivity but that does not mean our prison system exists because everyone that has ever advocated or participated in jailing criminals is a sadist. The question was are harsh interrogations effective. Your answer seems to be no, the practice has just continued to exist because all the people that have done this are sadists. I don't find that to be realistic.

Posted by: dave | November 2, 2007 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Waterboarding was used during the Spanish Inquisition, by
fascists, by nazis, by all the basest, most inhuman and savage regimes, that were modelled on keeping their populatons in a perpetual state of terror and preventing dissent. That's your 'proof' --dave. Some people get off se*ually from torturing other people-- quite a few, it appears, from the news reports-- and that's why we have the 'actions of the last thousand years or so.'

Is sadism really the model you want for America? Do you really want a return to the Inquisitions and horrors of the Dark Ages? because that's really what you are advocating.

Posted by: drindl | November 2, 2007 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Try Unca Google with and then tell me why Kucinich is the butt of late night jokes this week. But I went to the NDIC study which appeared to come to this conclusion: "Chapters 5 and 6 of this book describe how current eduction is conducted and note that although there is no valid scientific research to back the conclusion, most professionals believe that pain, coercion, and threats are counterproductive to the elicitation of good information. The authors cite a number of psychological and behavioral studies to buttress the argument, but are forced to return to the statement: "more research is necessary."

So they are relying, much like many of the Google results, on what various people think (but little actual proof), especially the words of current or former people from the intel community. I would submit that people in the intel community are the last people we should believe. Afterall, would you expect some CIA guy to say to the world "Waterboarding really is effective. You can break guys in less than 30 seconds. Our enemies should try this."? Aside from trying to gather intel, the CIA also engages in spreading false info. One will never know the effectiveness from the words of people in the intellegence community. Finally I would say that if it is known that it is completely ineffective, why has there been a deliberate effort to keep it as an option for over 50 years in the US? I still maintain the best "proof" we have are the actions of the people all over the world for the last thousand years or so. If actions speak louder than words, there is some effectiveness in harsh interrogations.

Posted by: dave | November 2, 2007 9:35 AM | Report abuse

response to (claudialong | November 2, 2007 08:47 AM)

Great post. Of course the irony is that most of the country wants a out of Iraq within the next year or so. I guess Mensa candidate W. is implying that most of the country is a bunch of "Pinkos." W. should spend more time learning how to talk and less time spouting mindless horse apples.

Posted by: con_crusher | November 2, 2007 9:23 AM | Report abuse

'Is waterboarding acceptable to stop a nuclear attack? '

When will we elevate the public discourse from this sort of childishness, these word games? When you torture someone, they will say anything you want to hear. They will confess to anything. In the meantime, while you are getting your jollies off, you are wasting time and resources that might actually come up with something real. Police work is what's necessary, not S&M fantasies. Torture is never acceptable, never necessary, and almost never actually works. You are more likely to get lies which can just as easily take your investigation off track. There's a reason why only sadistic police states use this--you can get a signed confession that backs up the official propaganda record.

Posted by: drindl | November 2, 2007 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Fixistas? Sounds pretty hard core...

I see Bush is channeling Malkin, Limbaugh, et al again... do you suppose Rush is his official Hater/Speechwriter now?

'In the same speech, Bush also linked Congressional Democrats to the liberal group and the anti-war group Code Pink.

"When it comes to funding our troops, some in Washington should spend more time responding to the warnings of terrorists like Osama bin Laden and the requests of our commanders on the ground," Bush said, "and less time responding to the demands of bloggers and Code Pink protesters."

Posted by: drindl | November 2, 2007 8:47 AM | Report abuse

*yawn* McCain and Kerry are perfect examples of why sitting Senators rarely get elected to the White House. McCain calls himself a Maverick until he grabs his ankles for the GOP powers that be. Plus, he's old as the hills, which isn't sexy to a younger electorate. Hillary, Obama and Edwards are or were Senators, but they weren't Senators long enough to become jaded by the system. After a while, Senators sound too much like mealy-mouthed lawyers. Guess it makes sense since many of them are.

Posted by: con_crusher | November 2, 2007 1:46 AM | Report abuse

Tee hee, Pixies, the epitome of warmth and endearment :P

Posted by: roo_P | November 2, 2007 1:26 AM | Report abuse

Charming as "Fixistas" is, it has to be--does it not?--"Fixies," to rhyme with Pixies, as in the band. A warmer and funnier and more endearing name for your fans, and thus more appropriate, no?

Posted by: kemp.catherine | November 2, 2007 12:47 AM | Report abuse

dave, I see you did not pick a favourite category for yourself, yet. Let me introduce you to Unca Google, though:

One particular study from the National Defense Intelligence College could be singled out, if you tire reading thousands of documents detailing how ineffective torture is:

Posted by: roo_P | November 1, 2007 11:38 PM | Report abuse

First of all, we are not "discussing the legality of an action." Your assertion is that an action is not torture under certain conditions (please review your post) which I have conclusively shown to be incorrect.

If you would like to change your assertion to "torture is LEGAL in certain circumstances", for your reading pleasure I include a link to the U.N. resolution ratified by the U.S. that defines torture.

You will find that it specifically excludes extraordinary circumstances as an excuse to torture. You will also find that the Declarations, Reservations or Objections entered by the United States do not undermine the text.

Posted by: roo_P | November 1, 2007 11:29 PM | Report abuse

"That is probably the only way your kind--sadistic, uninformed, stupid, sub-human or a combination of the above--will come to grips with the ineffectiveness of torture"

Harsh interrogation is not ineffective. It tends to give you the truth plus other junk. That does not make it ineffective. If something is completely ineffective, people tend not to use it. Blood letting is ineffective and thus not used anymore. Harsh interrogations and torture are effective and thus continue to be utilized as they have been for thousands of years.

Posted by: dave | November 1, 2007 11:25 PM | Report abuse

"It is also incontestable that waterboarding is outlawed by the 2006 Military Commissions Act (MCA)"

It apparently is contestable that waterboarding is outlawed by the MCA or outlawed by the US at all. Waterboarding and other psychological interrogation techniques have been used by the US since the 50's. The CIA, with the apparent approval of the presidents since then, has been engaged in this (and probably more harsh techniques). We might not like to admit it but this is nothing new. The following is an exerpt from

When the Cold War came to a close, Washington resumed its advocacy of human rights, ratifying the UN Convention Against Torture in 1994 that banned the infliction of "severe" psychological and physical pain. On the surface, the United States had apparently resolved the tension between its anti-torture principles and its torture practices.

Yet when President William Clinton sent this UN Convention to Congress for ratification in 1994, he included language drafted six years earlier by the Reagan administration--with four detailed diplomatic "reservations" focused on just one word in the convention's 26-printed pages. That word was "mental."

Significantly, these intricately-constructed diplomatic reservations re-defined torture, as interpreted by the United States, to exclude sensory deprivation and self-inflicted pain--the very techniques the CIA had refined at such great cost. Of equal import, this definition was reproduced verbatim in domestic legislation enacted to give legal force to the UN Convention--first in Section 2340 of the US Federal Code and then in the War Crimes Act of 1996.

The current law's elusive definition of "severe mental pain" is concealed under Para. 950 V, Part B, Sub-Section B on page 70 of the 96-page "Military Commissions Law 2006" that reads: "Severe Mental Pain or Suffering Defined: In this section, this term 'severe mental pain...' has the meaning given that term in Sect. 2340 (2) of Title 18 [of the Federal code]."

And what is that definition in section 2340? This is, of course, the same highly limiting definition the US first adopted back in 1994-95 when it ratified the UN Anti-Torture Convention.

Simply put, this legislation's highly restricted standard for severe mental suffering does not prohibit any aspect of the sophisticated torture techniques that the CIA has refined, over the past half-century, into a total assault on the human psyche.

Posted by: dave | November 1, 2007 11:13 PM | Report abuse

I meant, "instead of engaging in ad hominen attacks," which I see that you are continuing to do. When you're dealing with legal concepts, I'd suggest Black's Law Dictionary or another suitable legal dictionary instead of Webster. When you're going to discuss torture, perhaps turning to the legal literature on the matter would define the issue much more accurately than Webster or even Black ever will. But, as noted above, this is not the place for a lengthy lesson on international or constitutional law. Briefly, I will concede that physical coercion is, as a general rule, ineffective at obtaining correct intelligence. But that's not what we were talking about. We were discussing the legality of an action. And the law rarely considers legality based on effectiveness. For example, capital punishment has little to no effective deterrence power and is no more effective at removing someone from society than life imprisonment, but it's still lawful. The letter posted above raised a legitimate discussion point, which is that many scholars, lawyers and judges believe that torture is something that's something entirely dependent upon the situation. That's is the view of Mukasey and a number of attorneys far more intelligent and knowledgeable than I am. So, perhaps you could simply consider whether all of those people who do believe that torture is something situational are simply evil and sadistic or merely reasonable people who see things differently than you do.

Posted by: caudlea | November 1, 2007 10:50 PM | Report abuse

This blog was, interesting. So this rumor is that McCain was planning on teaming up with Scott Read, a political mastermind, right? I must be missing something because I don't see why this is a bad thing, a rumor, that needs to be cleared up. Don't political campaigns want a political mastermind, with funding, working with them?

Posted by: calicoribbon | November 1, 2007 10:29 PM | Report abuse

There is no ambiguity in the definition of the word. Whether or not something is torture is completely independent of the circumstances it is performed.

You and your ilk may argue that torture is JUSTIFIED in certain circumstances such as the "ticking nukuler bomb."

Imagine we know that a bomb will go off in two hours and that we have captured someone who is nuts enough to blow up possibly millions of people because his invisible friend in the sky told him to. No matter what you do to him, what makes you think he would provide instructions to this bomb instead of just sending everyone on a wild goose chase to waste time instead?

That is probably the only way your kind--sadistic, uninformed, stupid, sub-human or a combination of the above--will come to grips with the ineffectiveness of torture.

The only widely successful application of torture (aside from just inflicting pain for the fun of it) is to extract confessions without regard to their veracity, employed by the more barbaric regimes all around the world.

Posted by: roo_P | November 1, 2007 10:08 PM | Report abuse

Torture is actually well defined, both internationally and domestically. Under that standard, waterboarding is assuredly torture. Moreover, the guy best positioned to know whether such actions are ever acceptable -- John McCain -- has repeatedly said that torture generally is simply not useful EVER b/c it doesn't produce reliable and actionable intelligence. Accordingly, the hypotheticals provided above are not only unavailing legally, they're also completely false in the choices they provide.

Posted by: _Colin | November 1, 2007 10:02 PM | Report abuse

caudlea--"roo_P, isn't of engaging in reflexive ad hominen attacks, why not consider the merits of the argument. Is waterboarding acceptable to stop a nuclear attack? Yes."

No. I am not sure how that is unclear from the original response.

Posted by: roo_P | November 1, 2007 9:46 PM | Report abuse

roo_P, isn't of engaging in reflexive ad hominen attacks, why not consider the merits of the argument. Is waterboarding acceptable to stop a nuclear attack? Yes. So are a lot of other nasty things to stop large number of Americans from dying from an immediate threat. Is waterboarding acceptable to interrogate at Gitmo? No and under no circumstances would waterboarding be acceptable at Gitmo or other facilities like that.

Circumstances matter a great deal. That's why not all homicides are murder. And that's also we have theories of just war and aggressive war. For a legal question, which is what Mukasey was answering, it's all about circumstances when considering whether something is lawful. However, if you happen to be someone who is never willing to compromise your morality under any circumstance, then good for you. Law, on the other hand, changes a great deal based on circumstances and justifies a lot of actions that are otherwise unlawful, such as speeding to take someone to the hospital. That's why few attorneys will ever tell you that something is illegal totally & completely.

Torture is a non-derogable right, which means that anything that's considered is, under no circumstances, allowed. Genocide is something that's also non-derogable. Again, find a circumstance under which a particular interrogation technique is okay and it's not torture. The ticking nuclear bomb is one scenario. There are others as well. If you think that physical coercion is never allowed, even under those circumstances, then that's your opinion and right. Just remember, however, that many people, including a lot of very learned legal scholars, disagree with you and they're not subhuman for wanting to protect people as much as you do.

Posted by: caudlea | November 1, 2007 8:54 PM | Report abuse

caudlea, roo is correct about torture being a "known"in American and international law.

Further, you have misconstrued the tension between Congress and the Executive, but there is no space here for a ConLaw session.

You are not subhuman. I suspect that Roo meant to say you are all too human, but not humane, in that you believe in situational torture, and not the rule of law. Most Americans would vote to repeal the Bill of Rights, but we have fortunately made that a difficult proposition. Now if we can just survive the GWB Presidency, some of the candidates actually believe in the rule of law.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | November 1, 2007 8:34 PM | Report abuse

caudlea, controlled drowning or "waterboarding" is not acceptable in ANY circumstances. You are a sub-human.

Furthermore, the definition of torture is perfectly clear. Whether it is done by the "bad guys" or the "good guys", whether to get directions to the nearest McDonalds or to stop a nuclear attack has nothing to do with it.

Posted by: roo_P | November 1, 2007 8:02 PM | Report abuse

The problem w/ calling waterboarding torture is that torture is, by definition, an act that no reasonable person would ever agree was necessary or right under any circumstances. Waterboarding, like a lot of coercive techniques, could be considered okay in a possible, but highly improbable set of conditions. Find any circumstance where it would be reasonable to waterboard and it can't be torture by definition. I think that the mere fact that there is substantial disagreement by many learned experts in the law in the country as to whether it could ever be reasonable is suficient to remove most actions from the category of torture. That's one of the loopholes that the Bush Administration has been using to not call interrogation practices torture.

As for the President taking an action under his constitutional powers contrary to an act of Congress, there is little to no case law on the matter. The question is really not if the President can violate the law but if the law can constrain a constitutional obligation of the President. History indicates that the answer is no, laws can't. For example, look to how Lincoln outright violated several laws and several provisions of the Constitution. While we're not in that extreme of circumstances at this point in time, the precedent still stands.

Posted by: caudlea | November 1, 2007 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Colin, if you ck in here, go look at the "Igazy" thread on Cohen's blog.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | November 1, 2007 6:32 PM | Report abuse

Chris Cillizza: Personally, I prefer fixophile over fixstas

Posted by: xjspzx | November 1, 2007 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, the last piece of that justification actually carries some weight with me. When Mukasey was nominated, I was VERY happy b/c the guy has a good reputation. And I certainly don't anticipate W nominating someone better. But after everything this administration has done, I just have no faith that Mukasey will actually stand up for the rule of law when he isn't even willing to call torture torture.

Not for the first time, I suppose I'm grateful that I don't get a vote on this. Truly, this qualifies as a no win situation for anyone that cares about the rule of law or separation of powers.

Posted by: _Colin | November 1, 2007 6:01 PM | Report abuse

"...are grounds to defer."

Posted by: mark_in_austin | November 1, 2007 5:55 PM | Report abuse

bsimon, I know...I just could not resist. The Admin claims it did not do this after the McCain A. was past, but if they did, Bush's signing statement makes him complicit. My real 2 cents there.

colin, Graham thinks that the answer he got to his UCMJ question from Mukasey taken together with Mukasey's dedication to "reprofessionalize" the JD and the unlikelihood that this Admin would ever nominate anyone better is grounds to defer.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | November 1, 2007 5:50 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the content of the letter, but have to say it's sad to me that principled men like McCain, Warner, and Graham are still unwilling to explicitly stand up to this administration. Standing up to your own party is difficult, obviously, but also hugely important in certain situations. Goldwater & Nixon being a good example. Sadly, none of these guys seem to be in Senator Goldwater's class when it comes to principles.

And for what it's worth, I remain severely disappointed in the Democratic party's willingness to stand up to Bush on issues of national security and executive powers as well.

Posted by: _Colin | November 1, 2007 5:20 PM | Report abuse

"By a so-inclined Congress, yes."

I'm curious about the positions of McCain, Graham & Warner on the subject.


Posted by: bsimon | November 1, 2007 5:16 PM | Report abuse


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Posted by: dan3 | November 1, 2007 5:16 PM | Report abuse

By a so-inclined Congress, yes.

I can evade, too. I was licensed in 1967.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | November 1, 2007 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Mark, thanks for posting that. It prompts in me a question for the Senators authoring the letter.

If the Administration has, via signing statement or executive order, ordered or continued the use of waterboarding in direct conflict with the above-cited legislation, the Geneva Conventions and the War Crimes Act, would you consider such to be an impeachable offense?

Posted by: bsimon | November 1, 2007 5:07 PM | Report abuse

McCain, Warner, and Graham sent this letter to Mukasey today:

We welcome your acknowledgement in yesterday's letter that the interrogation technique known as waterboarding is "over the line" and "repugnant," and we appreciate your recognition that Congress possesses the authority to ban interrogation techniques. These are important statements, and we expect that they will inform your views as Attorney General. We also expect that, in that role, you will not permit the use of such a practice by any agency of the United States Government.

You have declined to comment specifically on the legality of waterboarding, deeming it a hypothetical scenario about which it would be imprudent to opine. Should you be confirmed, however, you will soon be required to make determinations regarding the legality of interrogation techniques that are anything but hypothetical. Should this technique come before you for review, we urge that you take that opportunity to declare waterboarding illegal.

Waterboarding, under any circumstances, represents a clear violation of U.S. law. In 2005, the President signed into law a prohibition on cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment as those terms are understood under the standards of the U.S. Constitution. There was at that time a debate over the way in which the Administration was likely to interpret these prohibitions. We stated then our strong belief that a fair reading of the "McCain Amendment" outlaws waterboarding and other extreme techniques. It is, or should be, beyond dispute that waterboarding "shocks the conscience."

It is also incontestable that waterboarding is outlawed by the 2006 Military Commissions Act (MCA), and it was the clear intent of Congress to prohibit the practice. As the authors of the statute, we would note that the MCA enumerates grave breaches of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions that constitute offenses under the War Crimes Act. Among these is an explicit prohibition on acts that inflict "serious and non-transitory mental harm," which the MCA states (but your letter omits) "need not be prolonged." Staging a mock execution by inducing the misperception of drowning is a clear violation of this standard. Indeed, during the negotiations, we were personally assured by Administration officials that this language, which applies to all agencies of the U.S. Government, prohibited waterboarding.

We share your revulsion at the use of waterboarding and welcome your commitment to review existing legal memoranda covering interrogations and their consistency with current law. It is vital that you do so, as anyone who engages in this practice, on behalf of any U.S. government agency, puts himself at risk of criminal prosecution, including under the War Crimes Act, and opens himself to civil liability as well.

We must wage and win the war on terror, but doing so is fully compatible with fidelity to our laws and deepest values. Once you are confirmed and fully briefed on the relevant programs and legal analyses, we urge you to publicly make clear that waterboarding can never be employed.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | November 1, 2007 5:00 PM | Report abuse

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