Dishonorable Discharge

by digby

Andrew Cohen at CBS writes about McCain's extremely aggressive response to the Boumediene decision and makes an observation that's important for all of us to remember as we watch this man go into fear monger overdrive in the next few months.

A lot of it is pure ego and defensiveness because he sold his honor down the river in 2006 and will never be able to get it back:

Following the last Supreme Court ruling on this topic, which also struck down stubborn Administration detainee policies, the Senator (a Vietnam torture victim himself) invested no small amount of his own treasured (and well-earned) historical capital to try to broker a deal on the detainees.

And, in late 2006, he did.

It’s called the Military Commissions Act. It was a terrible idea from the very beginning, and it was one of two federal statutes undercut by the Justices last Thursday. It’s no wonder the nominee is taking the defeat personally.

After first insisting that federal law clearly and unambiguously outlaw “torture,” McCain suddenly caved to White House pressure on the MCA, allowing the Administration to insert into the law a clause that effectively allows (and, indeed, legally buttresses the efforts of) the executive branch to implement torture as a means of interrogation.

Without McCain’s pander, there would have been no bad law for the Court to strike down last week. Without McCain’s grandiloquent appeal to Democrats and moderates during that lame-duck session, there quite possibly might have been a better law that just might have passed its constitutional test this term.

McCain’s sell-out on the torture language is not the reason the Justices declared the MCA unconstitutional. It is not the reason why the detainees now have more access to federal courts than they did before. But it is emblematic of the larger and much more destructive, seven-year-long sell-out of the legislative branch in the legal fight against terrorism.

And that emblem, thanks to the Supreme Court, now has John McCain’s face on it just in time for the run-up to the general election.

You would think that would be a problem for him, but the Democrats foolishly trusted McCain to have some integrity on the issue of torture and habeas and they got punk'd. They're going to have a hard time explaining why 12 Democrats crossed over to vote for the atrocity. (And they did it knowing full well that the other sponsor of the bill, Mccain's faithful hound Huckleberry had already committed fraud on the Supreme Court in the Hamdan case.)

Here's what Glenn Greenwald wrote on the day of the vote:

McCain is giving the closing argument for Republicans and Pat Leahy is doing so for Democrats. Numerous Senators (including, irritatingly, Carl Levin) all stood up to ooze reverent praise for John McCain, and then McCain himself proceeded to do the same thing, as he pompously strutted around pointing out all of the great protections he won for us in his hard-nosed negotiations with the President. His hard-nosed negotiations with the White House are about as effective as Arlen Specter's.

McCain sold himself to the devil on this one and now he's forced to defend it. If there is any justice in the world this should be the thing that takes him down. Sadly, it won't be. It will be that the Republicans have been in power too long and failed too spectacularly. But, when he's sitting in the seventh circle of hell, he'll have a lot of time to contemplate whether it was worth it. Specter will be there with him.

Here's the last line of Glenn's post:

During the debate on his amendment, Arlen Specter said that the bill sends us back 900 years because it denies habeas corpus protections. Then he voted for it.

Update: Hilzoy at Obsidian Wings analyzes Mccain's War College Thesis from 1974 which was featured in today's NY Times. She notes the difference in what McCain clearly considered torture back then, and what he considers torture now. Indeed, it would seem that it was so uncontroversial that he didn't even feel the need to "define" torture at all. I think it was pretty much universally understood that things like sleep deprivation and stress position and hypothermia etc --- were torture. I guess his thinking has evolved on this. Or he is a political whore.