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Op-ed: GOP candidates impersonated Jack Bauer, torture enthusiast
Ron Brynaert
Published: Friday May 18, 2007
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According to Los Angeles Times columnist Rosa Brooks, Tuesday's Republican presidential debate wasn't an "edifying spectacle," since it consisted of "a group of middle-aged white guys competing with one another to see who could do the best impersonation of Jack Bauer, torture enthusiast and the central character on Fox's hit show 24."

Brooks, a Georgetown University Law Center professor, notes that "Fox News moderator Brit Hume who appears to have been watching too much 24 himself raised what he described as 'a fictional but we think plausible scenario involving terrorism and the response to it.' He then laid out the kind of 'ticking-bomb' scenario on which virtually every episode of 24 is premised precisely the kind that most intelligence experts consider fictional and entirely implausible.

"Rudy Giuliani a man who knows he has a few cross-dressing episodes to live down didn't hesitate," Brooks adds.

Guiliani answered, "I would tell the [interrogators] to use every method. It shouldn't be torture, but every method they can think of."

When Hume asked if that included the controversial waterboarding procedure (immobilizing the prisoner and pouring water into his mouth to simulate drowning, which most experts classify as torture) the former New York City mayor said "I would and I would well, I'd say every method they could think of."

Former Massachussetts Governor Mitt Romney proposed to "double" the number of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, while Rep. Duncan Hunter said he also backed "very high-pressure techniques."

"We're wondering about whether water-boarding would be a a bad thing to do?" asked Rep. Tom Tancredo. "I'm looking for Jack Bauer at that time, let me tell you."

"Ha ha," Brooks mocks. "This remark was greeted by uproarious laughter and applause from the audience because, after all, who doesn't enjoy thinking about a hunky guy threatening to gouge out a detainee's eye with a hunting knife?"

Excerpts from the column follow:


Unlike Hunter and Tancredo, Giuliani and Romney took pains to insist that they didn't favor torture, just you know, "enhanced interrogation." But water-boarding, which neither would disavow, is unquestionably a form of torture. It involves taking a bound, gagged and blindfolded prisoner and pouring water over him or holding him underwater to induce an unbearable sensation of drowning. It was used in the Spanish Inquisition and by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge fellas who make Jack Bauer look like a softie.

In Tuesday's debate, only John McCain and Ron Paul bucked the collective swooning over enhanced interrogation. Paul mused about the way that torture has become "enhanced interrogation technique. It sounds like newspeak," he noted, referring to George Orwell's term for totalitarian doubletalk in his novel "1984." Paul obviously never got the memo. For most of the Republican primary candidates, "1984" isn't a cautionary tale, it's a how-to manual.

Only McCain reminded the audience that "it's not about the terrorists, it's about us. It's about what kind of country we are."