McCain 'disappointed' in candidates who back waterboarding
November 14th, 2011
06:46 PM ET
7 years ago

McCain 'disappointed' in candidates who back waterboarding

(CNN) - Sen. John McCain said Monday he was "disappointed" that some candidates vying for the GOP presidential nomination vocally support waterboarding as a technique for interrogating suspected terrorists.

"Ask any military lawyer, ask any person who knows about the Geneva conventions that we're signatories to. We actually prosecuted Japanese war criminals specifically for the act of waterboarding against Americans," McCain said on CNN's "John King, USA."

The Arizona lawmaker was reacting specifically to comments made by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former pizza executive Herman Cain, and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachman at Saturday's GOP presidential debate.

McCain said Monday that waterboarding was not only illegal, but ineffective.

"If you put enough physical pain on somebody, they will tell you whatever they think that you want to hear in order for the pain to stop," McCain said.

McCain said the person elected president needed to display leadership to ensure Americans know international law prohibits torture.

"It's a matter of the president telling the American people about the Geneva Conventions," McCain said. "And why we didn't torture prisoners in World War II. That was because they had Americans as prisoners. And why we prosecuted people for the very same act of waterboarding after World War II was over."

McCain took a strong stance against waterboarding when he was running for president in 2008. A former naval aviator, McCain was shot down by the North Vietnamese in 1967, and endured years of imprisonment and torture as a POW.

At the debate Saturday night, hosted by CBS News and the National Journal, three candidates came out in support of waterboarding.

Perry defended the practice, saying: "This is war. That's what happens in war."

Cain said of waterboarding, ""I don't see that as torture. I see it as an enhanced interrogation technique."

Bachmann called the tactic "very effective" and said Obama "is allowing the ACLU to run the CIA."

Speaking to CNN's Wolf Blitzer Monday, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santroum said he did support waterboarding, citing its role in locating terrorists.

"This is something we should not use cavalierly by any stretch of the imagination, but if absolutely necessary, for the security of our country, we have to have methods available to extract from people who are not protected by the Geneva Convention," Santorum said on "The Situation Room."

Other candidates, including former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney do not support the tactic.

Filed under: 2012 • John McCain • TV-John King U.S.A.
soundoff (105 Responses)
  1. Slightly Left of Center

    Bravo, Senator McCain. Bravo!

    November 14, 2011 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  2. Eric L.

    Ron Paul has been against this his whole political career of 30 years and you somehow forgot. You and CBS are on the same level of unfairness.

    November 14, 2011 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  3. timz

    Candidates say all sorts of things to get elected and then often do exactly the opposite once they're safely in office. It's critical that the American public know what a Presidential candidate will *really* do, not just what their handlers tell them to say. Since we have it on good assurance that waterboarding is an innocuous yet effective interrogation tool, maybe we should drop some of these endless debates in favor of having each of these candidates publicly waterboarded until we are sure . . . really, really sure . . . of exactly what their positions are. We may even discover that many (most?) of them believe, when put to the question, that waterboarding is torture . . . at least when it is applied to them.

    November 14, 2011 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  4. Clint, Wa.

    I’ve got a great idea, during the next debate lets water board them for their answers, and then ask them if its torture or not.
    I myself being a Vietnam Veteran don’t agree very often with John McCain on anything, but with this I do.

    November 14, 2011 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  5. David Myers

    I am no fan of John McCain, or any of the Republicans for that matter, but I will give him credit for standing up for what is right – not ignoring the Geneva Convention that we signed and not approving water-boarding. I will have to say, however, that he does have a horse in this race in that he personally was tortured. Would he have been against it if that had not happened to him? It's anybodies guess, but good for him for challenging members of his own party on this important human rights principle, regardless of where his motivation comes from. Way to go John McCain for standing up for principle for once.

    November 14, 2011 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  6. steve

    Looks like McCain didn't learn anything from the 2008 campaign.

    November 14, 2011 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  7. us1776

    Something we agree on.

    You never get accurate information through torture.

    Only through building trust do you obtain accurate information.


    November 14, 2011 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  8. michael

    those idiots who support waterboarding are just trying to appeal to a certain votor and appear like a leader. they wouldnt know the first thing about leadership. bunch of losers all of them are not worthy to be president much less in the public eye. is this really the best the brightest the republicans can offer? losers and joke.

    November 14, 2011 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  9. westward

    Beware of the majority of GOP candidates that are pro-war and pro-torture. Exactly what we DON'T need at this time.

    November 14, 2011 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  10. jim

    study after study after study has shown that TORTURE DOES NOT WORK!

    i'm no fan of john mccain, but he's right on this one.

    November 14, 2011 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  11. Lefty

    Thank you, Mr. Cain. You would be the best to know that torture doesn't work and that it can send a message to other countries it is okay to do the same to our service men and women. Somehow, it is pretty unbelievable to me they can't think that far – and to say it in a debate is like a shot around the world.

    November 14, 2011 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  12. irrelevent

    Mccain acts like an authority when he never demanded his abuser be brought to trial for torturing him..Mccain is like a deer in headlights who is shattered by experience and shouldnt be in govt beatingthe drums of war

    November 14, 2011 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  13. Spin

    Hmm . . . Rick Perry, Michelle Bachman, and Rick Santorum all claim that they are Christians. As a Christian myself, I challenge them to show me where in the Gospels the Christ supported torture. When they can do that, maybe I'll listen to them.
    I also find it interesting that John McCain, who was himself tortured, states that torture is ineffective, that a man will say anything just to make the pain stop, but Rick, Michelle, and Rick, who all three have never served in the military in active combat and who all three have lived comfy lives, know more than Mr. McCain and know that torture is wonderful. I, for one, will not vote for anyone who so freely flushes traditional American morals and honor down the toilet.

    November 14, 2011 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  14. Are you kidding me ?

    The republican candidates seem to want to keep repeating the same mistakes of the Bush administration ! Too bad that the American public doesn't want to repeat Bush's mistakes ! Obama has my vote ! President Obama's foreign policy record is stellar and all without the use of draconian tactic's such as waterboarding ! This is one thing I agree with McCain on !

    November 14, 2011 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  15. Don1966

    Gotta go with McCain on this one. America does not torture...that includes waterboarding. We did that before this administration started running the show. The problem for the GOP is that President Obama is basicallly more successful at foreign policy than Bush-Cheney. So, the GOP challengers are only left with things like "this President should be waterboarding and he's not"... and "why aren't we bombing Iran?". Are these posers and kooks really fit to run our country? Obama 2012!

    November 14, 2011 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  16. Janissa

    McCain got this one right.

    November 14, 2011 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  17. RINO Bil

    One would think that someone with his history and experience, John McCain would have used language more forceful than "disappointed." What a ... wuss!

    November 14, 2011 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  18. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Bachmann was wrong. The idea that we can use torture and it be okay is just beyond unbelieveable. We need to be beyond reproach when prosecuting the war against these terroristic thugs that hate us because we are not like them.

    November 14, 2011 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  19. Matthew Kilburn

    Americans were uniformed soldiers who fully met the standards of the Geneva convention. Al Qaeda falls far short of this level, and is much more akin to an international criminal enterprise than a uniformed fighting force.

    Whats more, the kinds of intelligence we're seeking and our alternative methods of obtaining it are far different when we're up against a national army than when we're up against Al-Qaeda...notice we weren't waterboarding members of the Iraqi Army...

    McCain is a war hero, sure – but the fact is, he wants to treat Al-Qaeda terrorists pretty much on par with how we treat our own soldiers who ran afoul of the UCMJ. Thats unacceptable.

    November 14, 2011 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  20. malcolm (@malcolmtbm)

    you don't torture people, what ever information you may or may not get is not worth the long term damage to our national character, our national creditably, our national values...also, think about the people actually doing the water boarding, imagine where their heads are and where do you think they'll be after the military?

    November 14, 2011 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  21. falcon615

    Good for McCain

    November 14, 2011 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  22. Vorps

    First intelligent thing I've heard him say in a long time.

    November 14, 2011 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  23. Marie MD

    Oh goodie, here he is again. At least he is taking a stand about something he knows about and must have been terrible to endure.
    On the other hand, after 2008 I could really care less about what you think or say about anything. You sold your soul to the devil (ask pat robertson who probably has spoken to him) for a position of power.

    November 14, 2011 09:12 pm at 9:12 pm |
  24. Oldie in TampaBay

    First wise thing you've said in awhile, John!

    November 14, 2011 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  25. JD

    While I disagree with Herman Cain and Rick Perry, at least they limited their comments to the issue at hand: the legality and effectiveness of waterboarding. Michelle Bachmann, on the other hand, couldn't stop herself and felt the need to make one of her typical "looney toon" comments about the president allowing the ACLU run the CIA. Memo to all you would-be presidents: listen to Senator McCain. He spent years as a POW and has earned the right to his opinion on the subject. His is a very sensible opinion, and demonstrates the leadership you sorely lack.

    November 14, 2011 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
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