November 28th, 2007
10:10 PM ET
10 years ago

McCain interrogates Romney on waterboarding

Watch Romney and McCain discuss torture during Wednesday night's debate.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney clashed on the subject of waterboarding, in which prisoners are made to feel as if they are drowning. A questioner asked how anyone could disagree with McCain's opposition to waterboarding given his experience as a POW in Vietnam.

"I don't think it's wise to describe what techniques we would use for interrogating people," Romney said.

McCain fired back, telling Romney, "I'm astonished you think such a torture would be inflicted on anybody who we held captive and anybody can believe that's not torture. It's a violation of the Geneva Conventions. It's a violation of existing law."

Romney responded by saying he was not in favor of torture, but did not want potential captives to know what awaited them. "I will not specify the specific means of what is and what is not torture so the people that we capture know what things we are able to do and what things we are not able to do," Romney said.

Calling torture a, "defining issue," McCain replied, "We should be able, if we want to be commander in chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, to take a definite and positive position on [this], and that is, we will never allow torture to take place in the United States of America."

- CNN Contributor Jamie Gray

Filed under: John McCain • Mitt Romney
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. kate lee, scottsbluff, NE

    I cannot say I was surprised by Romney's response, which was essentially the same as that given by Mr. Bush's new Attorney General. What does surprise me is the number of people who, in their posts, seem to believe that, if someone else commits torture, we have the right to do the same. If you are a Christian, you are aware that this sort of Lex Talionis was superceded by the New Testament teachings. If you are not a Christian, you may subscribe to the idea that two wrongs don't make a right or to the Kantian idea that one must ask one's self: In the same situation, would I want others to act in the same way that I am acting? The immorality of others with respect to human life does not give the US license to act immorally.

    November 29, 2007 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  2. AJ, IL

    Romney clearly looked uncomfortable, dare I say SCARED when he had to comfort McCain on waterboarding as torture. Romney's response was off-base, because he was asked about waterboarding being a form of torture. Yes or No with a simple explanation would have sufficed. The Geneva Conventions outlines that torture is illegal in an international court of law. The question related to whether or not the candidates believed that waterboarding is torture. Romney tried to make amends in his response by saying he would consult with McCain as well as other experts. Romney's response on waterboarding reminded me of his response towards militarily engaging in attacking Bin Laden and Al Qaeda in Pakistan without Pakistani government approval. Romney said he would consult his lawyers. Romney seems to use this consulting response way too much for my liking. It is pretty evident that all presidents have consultants and experts giving them advice. Mitt, we want to know what you think! After all, you are running for President, not your consultants and experts.

    November 29, 2007 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  3. Steve in Charlotte

    Is someone going to say that terroists do not torture and kill soldiers that fall into their hands.
    Get real.

    Posted By Steve Blaine Washington : November 29, 2007 1:44 am

    The terrorists always play by the Geneva convention rules and we should heed their wonderful example.

    Once we do this we can go back to ignoring the terrorists while embassies get blown up, more WTC's, more ships will be attacked, but AS LONG AS WE ARE LOVED AGAIN.

    As a fellow vet I respect McCain greatly, but as much as he is wrong here, Romney is right.

    Posted By Tom Dedham, Mass : November 29, 2007 1:36 pm

    Since WHEN do we look to terrorists for the yardstick by which we measure our morality? We are fighting these people because we are supposed to be "better" than them. America stands for something, that that is the moral high ground. We don't torture because we are better people than them, not because we are weak.

    In addition as a former US Army Soldier, I would want the benefit of our good treatment of enemy captives in case any of our Soldiers are captured. I want them to say "He's an American, they generally treat us with respect when we are captured, so leave him alone" versus "Look what they did to our brothers in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, break his fingers!!!". All THAT, plus if the enemy knows they will NOT be tortured, they are more likely to surrender, which leads to less casualties, and less widows that are given folded up American Flags. Just my two cents.

    November 29, 2007 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  4. Former US Army Officer, Kansas

    Water boarding is torture. Torture is not permitted for any reason what so ever. No information gained through torture is reliable. And the only thing information gained through extreme means has ever stopped is your fantasies.

    A person in extreme discomfort (being tortured) will tell you absolutely anything "you want" to get you to stop. You note I said "you want" what "you want" to hear not necessarily the truth. Also, information obtained with extreme measures normally takes time, and time is not the friend of truth nor does the information have any value.

    As to why our government maintains prisoners outside the contential United States, it is so they can maintain the myth that individuals in US custody are outside of US law and legal proceedings. I assure you that it has been the proud history of this nation that the United States exists where its flag flys. If I am on a aircraft carrier in the middle of the Pacific, I am on US soil, if I am standing in an embassy in Moscow, I am on US soil, if I am standing on a US military base in German, I am on US soil, if I am standing on a US base in Cuba, I am on Cubian soil, wait a minute that does not compute. History shall look back upon this period of time and shake it head.

    November 30, 2007 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
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