So, I was driving along an expressway today, taking my car to the garage for a routine maintenance. I had NPR on the radio, and as I listened to the top news stories on "All Things Considered" I felt my eyes filling with tears.
The story--Eric Holder's confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Never mind that MY senator, Arlen Specter, makes a spectacle of himself "grilling" Holder about his advising President Clinton on pardoning Marc Rich. I do not recall Specter being so vociferous questioning Alberto Gonzalez. But that's not why I was moved to tears.
(photo from http://www.voanews.com/english/2009-01-15-voa56.cfm)
No, the interchange that filled my eyes with tears was between Senator Leahy, who chairs the committee, and Eric Holder.
Question: Is waterboarding torture.
Answer: Waterboarding is torture. It was so defined under the Spanish Inquisition and when used by the Japanese in World War II, and it remains so today.
There--that was it. I felt a catch in my throat. My eyes began to fill with tears--and I thought: finally. A prospective attorney general for our country who has the courage to say waterboarding is torture.
It gets better.
Question: Does the president have the power to immunize people against criminal charges if they use waterboarding.
Answer: No one is above the law.
And you could almost hear the tremendous crack as the shell of taint that has surrounded our country and robbed us of moral authority in the world begins to shatter.
Of course, there will be someone who uses the ticking time bomb test. It goes like this: suppose you grab a terrorist who you know has placed a bomb somewhere (say in the middle of Times Square or some other place populated with loads of people). Isn't it justified to torture that person to get him to tell you where the bomb is. So, you take one life--but you save thousands.
And my answer is--no, it is not justified. If we do that--we are no better than the people we presume to oppose.
So, thank you, Eric Holder--my eyes cleared, and I continued safely to the garage. But, I felt a little better about where my country is headed.