During his confirmation hearings, Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey refused to classify waterboarding as torture. His remarks prompted all 10 Senate Democrats on the Judiciary Committee to demand a “clear-cut statement” from him that the torture technique of simulated drowning is illegal.
This past Wednesday, Mukasey’s good friend Rudy Giuliani gave a similarly murky answer on waterboarding, stating that “it depends on the circumstances” and “on who does it” because “liberal newspapers have exaggerated it.”
Speaking in Iowa on Thursday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who 40 years ago today was shot down, captured, and tortured by the North Vietnamese, took issue with Giuliani and Mukasey. McCain denounced waterboarding as clear-cut torture:
“Anyone who knows what waterboarding is could not be unsure. It is a horrible torture technique used by Pol Pot and being used on Buddhist monks as we speak,” said McCain after a campaign stop at Dordt College here.
“People who have worn the uniform and had the experience know that this is a terrible and odious practice and should never be condoned in the U.S. We are a better nation than that.”
Mukasey’s unwillingness to distance himself from torture has jeopardized his confirmation. Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said yesterday that his vote “would depend on [Mukasey] answering that question.” “This to me is the seminal issue,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid remarked, “I think if he doesn’t change his direction in that regard, he could have at least one concern and that’s me.”
Will McCain too demand that Mukasey condemn waterboarding as a precondition for his vote?