The Daily Politics
Despite her apparent opposition to torture, Hillary Clinton said in a Daily News editorial board meeting yesterday that the practice is acceptable in some circumstances.
Clinton got a rousing reception from the human rights community, and seemed to take an uncharacteristically bright-line stance, in a recent statement on the Senate floor during the debate over torture.
“Have we fallen so low as to debate how much torture we are willing to stomach?” she asked at one point, and left anti-torture commentators, and even Clinton critics like Andrew Sullivan, with the impression that she’d emerged into a kind of un-Clintonian moral clarity and said no to torture.
But at yesterday’s Daily News editorial board meeting, it emerged that she’s not actually against torture in all instances, and that her dispute with McCain and Bush is largely procedural.
She was asked about the “ticking time bomb” scenario, in which you’ve captured the terrorist and don’t have time for a normal interrogation, and said that there is a place for what she called “severity,” in a conversation that included mentioning waterboarding, hypothermia, and other techniques commonly described as torture.
“I have said that those are very rare but if they occur there has to be some lawful authority for pursuing that,” she responded. “Again, I think the President has to take responsibilty. There has to be some check and balance, some reporting. I don’t mind if it’s reporting in a top secret context. But that shouldn’t be the tail that wags the dog, that should be the exception to the rule.”
Asked again about these methods, she said:
“In those instances where we have sufficient basis to believe that there is something imminent, yeah, but then we’ve got to have a check and balance.”
So I’m not sure what Andrew Sullivan is so excited about. Torture is OK as long as the president approves it, as long as it’s an exception, and as long as it’s secretly reported to Congress. That doesn’t sound like a bright moral line to me.