John Kerry on Obama’s Health Care Plan

On one of today’s battles of the surrogates John Kerry backed Barack Obama while Ed Rendell backed Hillary Clinton on This Week. Kerry made many good points in favor of Obama. On health care, Kerry noted that “Hillary Clinton’s plan in the United States Senate is a non-starter because it starts with a mandate which is unachievable in the United States Senate.” Kerry had also rejected mandates when developing his 2004 health care plan. The video is available here.

Richard Scaife, Another Conservative Hillary Fan?

Hillary Clinton is sure getting along better with the “vast right wing conspiracy.” Despite all the conflict she has had with them, she is not above working with Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, and more recently Richard Mellon Scaife. It isn’t necessarily bad to mend fences with one’s political enemies and find ways to work together. The problem in Hillary’s case is that her views are far closer to theirs than many realize. I was not at all surprised to see today’s columnfrom Richard Scaife in which he reassesses Clinton and found many more areas of agreement than anticipated.

In some cases this is because Scaife agrees with virtually everyone but the extreme right that remaining in Iraq is contrary to our national interests, as well as the interests of the Iraqis. In other cases this may because of how conservative Clinton is on social issues (with the exception of abortion). I’ve noted her association with social conservatives in recent posts (here and here) and how this can be seen in many of her political positions.

It is not surprising that Scaife still finds areas of disagreement with Clinton on domestic issues. Her economic populism, along with her views on abortion, will prevent most conservatives from realizing how close she actually is to their views. From my perspective, while her populist economic views might be labeled as “liberal”I do not support such views any more than many conservatives do.

Someone like Clinton who is conservative on social issues, civil liberties, church/state issues, reversing the flow of power to the Executive Branch, and foreign policy, while populist on economic issues, is in many ways the worst of all possible choices in American politics and why, while I still have far too many areas of disagreement to vote for him, I’m not so sure that John McCain would be any worse (or more conservative) than Hillary Clinton as president.

Both Hillary Clinton and John McCain are similar in that they demonstrate the limits of our political labels which divide up most people as liberals or conservatives. Both Clinton and McCain actually support a set of positions which are contrary to the views of large numbers of both liberals and conservatives. I would classify both Clinton and McCain as conservatives, but in doing so also understand that neither fit in with the views of the bulk of conservative writers and bloggers. There are also many conservatives who would label both Clinton and McCain as liberals. That is fine with me in light of the limitations of political labels, as long as they also understand that this does not mean their views coincide with my views or the views of a number of other liberals.

More importantly, I hope that during this primary campaign more liberals are realizing that Hillary Clinton is not a liberal. While some still accept the incorrect conventional wisdom that Obama and Clinton are similar on the issues, a growing number of those in the liberal blogosphere are finding reason to oppose Clinton.

As I said at the beginning, if this was a case of Clinton making conservatives more willing to listen to liberal views, as Barack Obama has accomplished, then this would be a favorable thing. The problem remains that Clinton is promoting an essentially conservative agenda and continuation of Bush style politics and government. Instead of getting conservatives to consider liberal ideas, all Clinton is accomplishing is getting conservatives to realize to what degree she is really one of them.

Bush’s War Crimes

Scott Horton has written about the Convention Against Torture and has described the use of torture at Abu Ghraib:

Enforced nudity. This technique is adopted for purposes of degrading and humiliating the prisoner, heightening his senses of vulnerability, weakness and shame. Enforced nudity also enhances other techniques, particularly hypothermia.

Starvation. As Davis notes, when the prisoner is entitled to an MRE, he would be given one component only of the MRE. The entire MRE constitutes a reasonable food ration which is properly balanced. Giving only one part of it reflects a decision to starve the prisoner.

Stress Positions. Perhaps the oldest and best established torture technique, widely used by the Inquisition in Europe, was the strapado. Hands would be fastened behind the back and the victim would be hoisted, causing severe stress to joints, frequent dislocation, and severe and sustained pain. The strapado would invariably get its victim to confess to anything, very quickly. During World War II, this same technique was widely adopted and used by the Germans, who called it Pfahlbinden. In the English of the Bush Administration, this technique is called a “stress position,” and it was widely used at Abu Ghraib.

Hypothermia. Shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution, the Soviet secret police pioneered a very simple technique that had the advantage of leaving the victim’s body unbruised or bloodied, but whose physiological effects were equally if not more effective than direct beatings. In its mildest form, the victim was left with thin clothing in a cell with temperatures hovering just above freezing. A day of such treatment was generally enough to produce physical collapse. The Bush Administration, of course, not having the benefits of a Siberian winter, turns to far cruder and more brutal techniques, which Davis describes. The prisoner is stripped naked, dunked in a bath of ice water, and a window is left open to insure exposure.

For President Bush, these techniques are a part of the “Program.” More generally in the American media, you’ll hear these things referred to as “highly coercive techniques.” But they have a proper name, which is “torture.” Their use is a serious crime under international law, and under U.S. law. And that stubborn fact has driven much of the Bush Administration’s bizarre machinations relating to the Convention.

The New Yorker has also looked at the use of torture recently. In response to these articles, Andrew Sullivan writes, “One day this president and vice-president will be prosecuted for war crimes.” They should be, but I doubt it will ever happen.