Time's Michael Scherer asks: Has McCain flip-flopped on torture? Simple answer to a simple question: Yes.
In 2005 he sponsored the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA) that prohibited military interrogators from inflicting "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment" upon prisoners by limiting interrogation techniques to those approved in the US Army Field Manual. However McCain was nearly silent as the grave when George Bush attached a signing-statement to the law that neutered it. Since then, he has not joined others in Congress who are pushing for the DTA to be tightened and expanded. In particular, while campaigning in Ohio on Feb. 10 McCain urged Bush to veto a Democratic bill that would have extended the coverage of the DTA to CIA personnel - who frequently interrogate prisoners held by the military at Guantanamo as well as at secret prisons around the world. Bush did veto the bill on March 8.
So it's abundantly clear that McCain has flip-flopped on torture. For all his preening on the issue, he has backed down shamefully in the face of Bush's intransigence. Last month DemFromCT highlighted McCain's flip-flops on torture:
Maybe McCain's barbecue buddies in the press will pin straight talkin' John down and highlight the doubletalk. My take is that McCain is confident he won't be pressed on it.
Oddly, Michael Scherer manages to reach the opposite conclusion from the truth. When it comes to McCain scandals, Scherer has staked out that territory before.
Referring to the Democratic bill that McCain rejects, Scherer states (my emphasis):
But on this latest piece of legislation, which arose during the heat of the primary campaign and may surface again later this month, McCain sided with Bush in opposing a further restriction of CIA techniques. Despite the claims of some partisans, McCain's decision was not a flip-flop, but rather the continuation of a position he took in 2005 when he first championed a bill to restrict the Bush Administration's ability to mistreat detainees.
"Further restriction..." Interesting phrase; we know of no legal restrictions on CIA interrogation techniques - at least, none that the CIA accepts as binding on it. The Bush administration long ago tossed aside federal anti-torture statute and international treaties banning torture and abuse. Scherer is pretending that the CIA's claim that it is not now using waterboarding, constitutes a "restriction". Even if he's gullible enough to take the CIA's word without proof, the term he's looking for is "pause". It's a pause in waterboarding, since the White House has stated it does not rule out a resumption of that torture technique.
So how in the world can McCain's opposition to the Democratic bill be described as a "continuation of a position he took in 2005" when he introduced the DTA? This is where Scherer's argument jumps several levels on the absurdity scale and enters the rarified realm of sheer perversity:
In the spring of 2005, McCain began the process of formulating legislation to prevent a use of such extreme techniques and some of the sanctioned abuses at Abu Ghraib. Initially, McCain's staff proposed and circulated a bill remarkably similar to the Democratic language McCain now opposes. In a draft proposal, dated May 17, 2005, and obtained by TIME, McCain's staff specifically outlined a plan to make the Army Field Manual "the basis for a uniform standard adhered to by all elements of the United States Government." Another section said that no person under U.S. control could be treated or interrogated with techniques "not authorized by or listed in" the manual. But in the end, after consultation with fellow senators and others, McCain and his staff did not adopt this draft language...
When McCain publicly introduced his bill, which was later called the Detainee Treatment Act, he had narrowed the scope to require the field manual's use only for the military interrogations or interrogations on military property.
Yes, Time has identified damning evidence. McCain's original draft of the DTA tried to extend its applicability to the CIA and all other government officials, but he backed down in the face of opposition and restricted the bill to the military. The Democratic bill vetoed in March by Bush would have instituted the across-the-board restrictions that McCain originally sought. But now McCain doesn't want them.
And Scherer tells us that is not a flip-flop.
Chiz. What would McCain have to do to get the traditional media to acknowledge his hard-earned reputation for flip-flopping? This article is a start, but its candor is remarkable only because of its rarity.
Update: By some technological quirk, the original post was an older draft rather than the final one. I've now posted the version that should have appeared, which differs only by adding a few further phrases and links in the second and last paragraphs.