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. Brad, Philadelphia, PA

    Mitt, answer a question. I you do not know an answer just say so. The American people are not dumb and would respect an honest answer over a vague contrived one any day.

    November 28, 2007 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  2. john, New York City, NY

    The fact that Romney is against torture and won't acknowledge waterboarding as exactly that is ridiculous and displays a lack of backbone necessary to properly command the military. His statement demonstrated poor leadership ability on a very important manner.

    On another note, McCain clearly won this debate. It's nice to see someone come across as honest and forthright...regardless if you agree with his stance on certains policies.

    November 28, 2007 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  3. Aaron, Urbana, Illinois

    I can’t believe he would show up to a debate, knowing waterboarding is a hot issue and says nothing about it. So let be get this…You don’t support torture, but you just won’t say what it is either?

    November 28, 2007 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  4. mike, San Diego California

    John McCain is on point. As a service member I will never endorse any type of torture and don't like how Mitt Romney avoided the topic. He would not be a good Commander and Chief.

    November 28, 2007 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  5. Jon, Boston, MA

    Can anyone think back a few months ago to Hillary pulling this very trick in avoiding questions on Pakistani relations? I find it amusing that Mitt seems to pull a page from the enemy's play-book here.

    November 28, 2007 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  6. Frank, San Diego

    All of you folks who are criticizing poor Mitt don't understand the bind he's in. If he admits that waterboarding is torture, and he is eventually elected president, how can he avoid prosecuting Bush and the rest of that criminal gang?

    November 28, 2007 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  7. Jacob, Evanston Illinois

    Mitt Romney answered the question to the best of his abilities. He was not wrong when saying he wouldn't disclose as president the types of interogation tactics used. He said he would take the advice from men and women like McCain. He does not know enough about the interogation tactics as McCain said but is willing to take advice from advisors when he becomes president.

    November 28, 2007 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  8. Richard, St. Paul, MN

    Romney is a smooth-talking scum bag, who changes his mind, depending on who can bring him the most votes. Total player....

    November 28, 2007 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  9. Eyvonne Meyer Jonestown, Pennsylvania

    It seems that the United States is the only country that abides by the Geneva Convention. If a detainee knows something I think you should be able to use whatever means possible to get information. It could be life and death of Americans.

    November 28, 2007 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  10. Richard, St. Paul, MN

    Can we waterboard Romney? PLEEAZEE???? He needs to know what he's talking about and we'd be glad to educate him. PLEEAZEE???

    November 28, 2007 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  11. Kevin, Placerville California

    I liked Romenys answer to this question.

    November 28, 2007 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  12. Martin Kautz, Obrigheim, Germany

    Romney is dangerous and/because he has no position/opinion.
    THE USA has signed the Geneva Convention – it is a valid contract. So what? The USA can just do whatever it pleases and excuse it with whatever? I had thought that a presidential candidate is smarter than that. This is what makes the American Foreign Policy so not understandable.

    November 28, 2007 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  13. Karen Houston,TX

    Romney's answer showed that HE IS just the right guy for the Commander in Chief. He seems to be the only candidate that I can see that doesn't want to publish the US military playbook and pass it out to every terrorist on the planet. How stupid do you have to be to lay out all of the do's and don't of our military interrogation tactics. ROMNEY PLAINLY STATED THAT HE WAS OPPOSED TO TORTURE, while making the point that it is important that we do not prepare terrorists by informing them of our tactics. Once again, Romney shows his brilliance. I am suprised that some of you missed the point! WAKE UP!

    November 28, 2007 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  14. Katee, Sparks NV

    There was definitely discrepency in what viewers, as well as McCain, heard from Romney on the waterboarding question. Romney does know what it is, has an opinion about it, and would seek appropriate counsel about the use of it. Disclosing specific tactics used or not used in interrogation is foolish and counterproductive. Perhaps those who cannot understand this also believe we should also publicize our military tactical plans so the enemy can prepare for that, too.

    November 28, 2007 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  15. Jim, Irmo, SC

    I like Stephen King's comments earlier, in reference to President Bush. He said that Jenna should be waterboarded and then she could report back to him whether or not she thinks it is torture. Let's let one of Romney's sons have the same experience and see what he says.

    November 28, 2007 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  16. Jessica, Cincinnati Ohio

    Mitt didn't answer the question at all, instead implied that he would seek "expert" recommendations. I would expect that my next president would be able to make those hard decisions, or at least give us an inkling as to where he/she stands.

    November 28, 2007 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  17. Aaron, Urbana, Illinois

    Ok the question didn’t ask to reveal any military tactics and strategy. A simple yes or no…is waterboarding torture? For others to claim he doesn’t know anything about it is wrong, and he does know what it involves. He wants to be vague to win over support. The United States is better than that, and we should always keep the moral high ground. Cherry-picking and worst case fantasy scenarios doesn’t constitute waterboarding in my opinion.

    November 28, 2007 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  18. Bill, Camarillo, CA

    If Romney does not understand that waterboarding is torture, then he is not fit to be president. He weaseled his way through the answer instead of making a simple declarative statement against the use of torture.

    November 28, 2007 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  19. Christopher Gerken, DC

    McCain's counter was on point and one of the most intelligent responses of the evening. All of these candidates are fully aware of what water boarding is and have an opinion and agenda around it both personally and politically.

    Mitt's lack of response – clarified as a "presidential candidate" not wanting to respond (answer) is indicative to his campaign and his inability to make definitive statements or decisions out of fear.

    Let's face it....if Mitt can't flip flop on the issue from his democratic years or if Ronald Reagan hasn't already commented on the subject then Mitt just can't answer a question or take a stand.

    Does Mitt want to be President or Ronald Reagan? He certainly isn't capable of being either.

    McCain's response was on target. Defined. Presidential and his patience with Romney's blundering – admirable.

    November 29, 2007 12:19 am at 12:19 am |
  20. Allan Camden, SC

    McCain's position on water-boarding and other forms of torture is the reason why he, alone among the candidates on the stage tonight, is the only one who has, or deserves, my respect. Romney's weaseling on the answer is precisely the reason why the US doesn't have many friends left. The United States once stood for the rule of law and was a beacon of hope for those without hope. No longer, unfortunately.

    November 29, 2007 01:18 am at 1:18 am |
  21. Steve Blaine Washington

    Since when do terroists fall under the Geneva Convention. That is why they
    do not imprison terroists inside the
    USA. Is someone going to say that terroists do not torture and kill soldiers that fall into their hands.
    Get real.

    November 29, 2007 01:44 am at 1:44 am |
  22. Angela, USA

    Mitt's answer was perfect. BTW, Has anyone really done research on the waterboarding technique? It certainly wouldn't make the top ten on the list of Muslim torture techniques. In fact, I think they do it for sport over there. And for the person who stated in their post that they're a former serviceman who doesn't believe in torture...BS. Say that to the families who lost loved ones on 9-11.

    November 29, 2007 01:52 am at 1:52 am |
  23. Tom

    Waterboarding Is torture. Romnay looked like a Liar on that question. Will not be getting my vote.

    November 29, 2007 02:23 am at 2:23 am |
  24. Tom Dedham, Mass

    We need to tell the bad guys how we are going to get information from them and also we need to tell them exactly when we are leaving Iraq.

    We need to grant the terrorists Geneva convention rights, so that way we can give them more prayer mats, three squares, clothes and NEVER EVER play loud music or use barking dogs to gather information.

    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.

    November 29, 2007 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  25. Andrew, Haslett, MI

    McCain is a straight-shooter and Romney came off like a weasel. Romney wouldn't know a straight answer if it hit him in the face. There's no excuse for a presidential candidate to dodge a question like this. It's only ONE technique so it's not like the US is giving away everything they would do to extract information. There is no excuse; Romney dodged the question. He didn't want to get trapped by the answer BECAUSE HE DOES NOT HAVE ONE!

    November 29, 2007 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
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