Earth to Tom Tancredo

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


I don't know quite how to break this to the Presidential hopeful, but Jack Bauer is a fictional character. The Congressman from Colorado seems a trifle confused; convinced that he is not only real, but that he could be all that stands between America and a terrorist free-for-all.

I know this not because I watched the Republican debate last night, but because Salon has provided a handy synopsis for those of us who had better things to do... like picking lint out of our navels. In what must have been a particularly disturbing segment, the very, very serious newsman Brit Hume tossed some red meat into the lion's cage.

74 minutes. We're back. "The questions in this round will be premised on a fiction," says Hume. No news there. Hume wants to do a role-playing game. Three shopping centers near American cities have been hit by suicide bombers. Hundreds are dead, thousands injured. A fourth attacker is apprehended and may have information about more attacks to come. The question goes to McCain. "How aggressively would you interrogate those being held at Guantánamo Bay for information about where the next attack might be?"

75 minutes. McCain answers emotionally, convincingly. "We do not torture people. When I was in Vietnam, one of the things that sustained us as we underwent torture ourselves is the knowledge that if we had our positions reversed and we were the captors, we would not impose that kind of treatment on them."

76 minutes. Giuliani tries to appear tougher than McCain. "I would tell the people who had to do the interrogation to use every method they could think of. Shouldn't be torture, but every method they can think of." It's unclear what he means, but it sounds a lot like torture. The crowd likes it. Applause.

77 minutes. Now Romney tries to appear tougher than McCain. "I don't want them on our soil. I want them in Guantánamo where they don't get the access to lawyers they get when they're on our soil. I don't want them in our prisons. I want them there," he says. "Some people have said we ought to close Guantánamo. My view is, we ought to double Guantánamo." More applause. Habeas corpus sucks!

79 minutes. Now Brownback sounds as if he is endorsing torture. "I'm going to do everything within my power to protect U.S. lives, period," he says. No applause for Brownback. The crowd is tired of cheering harsh interrogation.

80 minutes. It's Hunter's turn to sound like he's endorsing torture. "I would say to SecDef, in terms of getting information that would save American lives even if it involves very high-pressure techniques, one sentence: Get the information," he says. "SecDef" is tough talk for the secretary of defense.

81 minutes. The microphone returns to McCain, the only man on the stage who actually knows anything firsthand about torture. "Virtually every senior officer, retired or active duty, starting with Colin Powell, General [John] Vessey and everyone else, agreed with my position that we should not torture people," he says. Now he gets applause.

86 minutes. Pasty-faced Tancredo tries to outdo everyone else with his full-throttle endorsement of torture. "I'm looking for Jack Bauer at that time, let me tell you," he says. "And there is nothing -- if you are talking about -- I mean, we are the last, best hope of Western civilization." This sounds weird. Tancredo is saying torture will preserve the values of Western civilization. He seems to mean it. So be it. No blood has pooled at his feet. It must have been the makeup. [emphasis added]