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Monday Sep 18, 2006

Sunday Talkshow Breakdown

If you thought you were going to see a big Republican Party crack-up over torture and detainee rights, well ... you may have to keep waiting.

Although the White House was rebuffed last week by GOP Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Warner over its plan for interrogation and prosecution of terrorist suspects, the two camps were talking compromise on the Sunday shows.

What might a compromise look like?

It'll look bad.

Because the McCain-Graham-Warner position is already bad, just not quite as bad.

Most of the attention is on the dispute over the Geneva Conventions.

In the mainstream media telling, Dubya wants to redefine the meaning of the treaty under US law to allow for "alternative interrogation techniques" (read: torture), while McCain's posse is gloriously defending Geneva's human rights standards.

But while McCain's crew doesn't want to overtly define Geneva's standards down, they do want to severely restrict the ability to prosecute torturers.

That makes Geneva rather meaningless.

Which is why Balkinization deems the McCain position as "torture lite." (More background on the issue from Balkinization here and here.)

Furthermore, both camps stressed on the Sunday shows that they want to keep this "alternative interrogation" program in the CIA.

What does that mean? According to the Washington head of Human Rights Watch, "The only point in having a CIA program is to use techniques that go well beyond what is permitted by the Army Field Manual."

Of course, when National Security Director Stephen Hadley talked about it on CBS' Face The Nation, he disingenuously framed the debate to make it sound like it's about whether or not we should interrogate terrorism suspects at all.

Since pro-torture lite McCain is taking the lead in opposing Bush -- as opposed to an actual anti-torture Democrat -- he (on ABC's This Week) and Graham (on Face The Nation) did not explain the significance of placing the program in the CIA.

(And neither did any of the Sunday show hosts.)

Such is the problem when we stand back and let squabbling GOPers set the parameters of debate.

So even though the GOP factions aren't all that far apart, McCain and Graham were able to position themselves on the shows as the brave centrist mavericks.

Which will only bring a perception of legitimacy to any eventual compromise.

Posted by Bill Scher on Sep 18, 2006 email post email Spotlight / / You are in Sunday Talkshow Breakdown/ Terrorism
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