The Blog

The Left Loses Its Grasp

1:40 PM, May 12, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

One left-wing blogger feels it:

The argument against torture is slipping away from us. In fact, I'm getting the sinking feeling that it's over. What was once taboo is now publicly acknowledged as completely acceptable by many people. Indeed, disapproval of torture is now being characterized as a strictly partisan issue, like welfare reform or taxes.

I presume that like welfare and taxes, any "strictly partisan issue" will favor Republicans, but this seems about right to me, particularly on a day that Richard Cohen takes to the Washington Post op-ed page to wonder aloud whether Dick Cheney was right -- whether enhanced interrogation does work:

In some sense, this is an arcane point since the United States insists it will not torture anymore -- not that, the Bush people quickly add, it ever did. Torture is a moral abomination, and President Obama is right to restate American opposition to it. But where I reserve a soupçon of doubt is over the question of whether "enhanced interrogation techniques" actually work. That they do not is a matter of absolute conviction among those on the political left, who seem to think that the CIA tortured suspected terrorists just for the hell of it.

Cheney, though, is adamant that the very measures that are now deemed illegal did work and that, furthermore, doing away with them has made the country less safe. Cheney said this most recently on Sunday, on CBS's "Face the Nation." "Those policies were responsible for saving lives," he told Bob Schieffer. In effect, Cheney poses a hard, hard question: Is it more immoral to torture than it is to fail to prevent the deaths of thousands?

This was always a hard moral question, but as Cohen says, for the left this was no question at all. Like Obama, they reject this as a false choice -- and anyone who says otherwise is a moral cretin, a thug, a war criminal. Except these moral midgets seem to comprise some 60 percent of the voting public, maybe more. It's one of a very few issues where the public is at odds with the current occupant of the White House and sympathetic to his predecessor. Dick Cheney, despite his 18 percent approval rating, is winning this argument against an incredibly popular president. Cohen offers one possible explanation for this the left might want to consider: he's winning because he's right.