McCain On Opposing Mukasey: ‘I Can’t Be That Absolute’

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), a former prisoner of war who was tortured by the North Vietnamese, has spoken out forcefully against the practice of waterboarding. He said waterboarding is “a horrible torture technique” that “should never be condoned in the U.S.”

Last week, ThinkProgress questioned whether McCain would be willing to hold up Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey’s confirmation until he provides a clear-cut answer on whether he believes waterboarding is illegal.

On ABC’s This Week, McCain said, “Anybody who does not know if waterboarding is torture or not has no experience in the conduct warfare and national security.” The comments were a direct criticism against Rudy Giuliani and Mukasey, both of whom have refused to clearly condemn the practice.

Host George Stephanopoulos said, “You obviously feel strongly about this. Will Mr. Mukasey have to say clearly that waterboarding is torture to get your vote for attorney general?” McCain visibly stammered, hedged, and then refused to take a bold stance against Mukasey:

I can’t be that absolute. But I want to know his answer. I want to know his answer. Obviously, you judge a candidate for office or nominee for office on the entire record. But this is a very important issue to me.

Watch it:

McCain’s answer did not preclude him from holding up Mukasey’s confirmation. But, he did not lend his support to efforts by a number of Senators to refuse to confirm Mukasey if he does not come out firmly against waterboarding.

If McCain isn’t willing to stand up to Mukasey, he will have to explain why someone who “has no experience” in national security and condones a “horrible torture technique” deserves to be Attorney General.

UPDATE: Conservatives aren’t happy.