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John McCain breaks with GOP presidential hopefuls on waterboarding

November 14, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli
  • Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) speaks with reporters in the Reuters newsroom in Washington last week.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) speaks with reporters in the Reuters newsroom… (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters )

John McCain, the most recent Republican nominee for president, drew a clear separation Monday with some of the party's leading candidates in 2012 on the issue of waterboarding, saying he was "very disappointed" by those who said it was not torture.

The issue came up at the latest meeting of GOP candidates for a debate in South Carolina on Saturday.

Herman Cain was asked whether he agreed with McCain and President Obama that waterboarding does constitute torture -- one of the rare areas of agreement between the two in the 2008 campaign.

"I would return to that policy. I don't see it as torture. I see it as an enhanced interrogation technique," Cain said.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) agreed, saying the practice "gained information for our country" while blasting Obama for "allowing the ACLU to run the CIA."

"We have no CIA interrogation anymore. It is as though we have decided we want to lose in the war on terror under President Obama," she said.

Later in the debate Rick Santorum and Rick Perry said they favored the use of any and all necessary enhanced interrogation techniques. 

"This is war," Perry said. "This is what happens in war."

McCain chimed in on the subject on Twitter on Monday morning, writing: "Very disappointed by statements at SC GOP debate supporting waterboarding. Waterboarding is torture."

Two other candidates at the event shared McCain's view.

Rep. Ron Paul said waterboarding was "illegal under international law and under our law."

"It's also immoral and it's also very impractical. There's no evidence that you really get reliable evidence," he said.

Jon Huntsman, an early supporter of McCain's in 2008 and a former U.S. ambassador, said we "dilute ourselves down like a whole lot of other countries and we lose that ability to project values that a lot of people in corners of this world are still relying on the United States to stand up for."

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