Waterboarding and the Candidates

Written by David Frum on Monday November 14, 2011

Why couldn't one of the candidates have responded to the waterboarding question in Saturday night's CBS/National Journal debate as follows:

I won't second-guess the actions of the Bush administration. But you are asking about policies that were abandoned some 8 years ago, largely at the urging of our last presidential nominee, Senator John McCain.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration continues to practice rendition - turning over captured terror suspects to other countries, some of which question them in very rough ways. Is there a big difference between applying the waterboard yourself - and accepting information from an ally who does the waterboarding for you?

The waterboarding answer delivered instead by six of the eight candidates did not offer any reason to think that resuming waterboard was necessary. They were issuing a pure statement of group identity. Some of that is inescapable in a primary campaign I guess. But you have to be very careful of going on when a moderator tries to goad you into accepting a stereotype there is no reason to accept.