In the New York Times this morning, Christopher Buckley — the son of National Review founder William F. Buckley — defends Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) from what he calls the “Torquemadas of the right” who are challenging his conservative credentials. After running down the list of McCain’s heresies, Buckley claims that McCain’s position on torture is out of the conservative mainstream:
And — true, again — Mr. McCain is a bit of a girlie-man when it comes to waterboarding high-value detainees; but that’s a tricky one, even for macho, red-meat conservative chest-thumpers. You get a pass on that one if you’ve spent five-and-a-half years being bastinadoed by North Vietnamese.
Buckley’s description of McCain as a “girlie-man” reveals a couple of things. The first is Buckley’s belief that one’s “manliness” can be deduced from his support for torture. The second, and more important, is that the state of American conservatism is such that McCain requires “forgiveness” for opposing torture.
McCain did this again last week, when he voted against an amendment that would have required the intelligence community to abide by the same standards as the Army Field Manual, something which he previously claimed to support. As Steve Benen wrote:
When push came to shove, and the nation looked to the senator take a stand on principle, McCain balked.