Commentary

A Look at the Cheney Side of Romney

On the eve of our crucial presidential election, little public attention has been paid to the disclosure of Mitt Romney’s long-silent views on torture and other lawless actions of the George W. Bush-Dick Cheney and Barack Obama regimes.

Romney said earlier this month that he supports the Patriot Act. That law, which was rushed through Congress soon after 9/11, is still enforced against a wide range of our Bill of Rights — from deep denials of our personal right of privacy to expansions of executive branch authority that subvert the Constitution’s fundamental requirement of the separation of powers.

A worrisome footnote: Before he had been anointed by Romney, vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan voted for a continuation of the Patriot Act while serving as a member of the House.

As we continue, I don’t consider it irrelevant to highlight a recent New York Times story that reported “during a fundraiser at Cheney’s ranch, Mr. Romney called the former vice president ‘a great American leader.”

Cheney was the inspirer of the Bush Administration’s “dark side” (as he called it) of the War on Terror — from waterboarding to such other interrogation operations as CIA renditions and additional brutal torture.

Indeed, Romney said at a news conference in Charleston, S.C., last year: “We’ll use enhanced interrogation techniques which go beyond those that are in the military handbook right now.”

John Glaser, in a blog post for Antiwar.com, says Savage’s story for the Times shows that “Romney knowingly signaled that he would reinstitute torture of terrorist subjects.”

Furthermore, Savage — a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter on imperious administrations — writes that Romney was asked urgently by a reporter at the Charleston press conference “whether he thought waterboarding was torture, and Mr. Romney replied, ‘I don’t.’”

It’s not torture?

Dig this: Under the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1949 Geneva Conventions (both of which we signed) and our own Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991, the basic definition of torture is: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” (Those descriptions that follow “torture” are also embodied in the definition of that punishment.)

When a terrified prisoner is very close to asphyxiation while being waterboarded, Mr. Romney, that’s torture. See, for example, this recent headline from Matthew Rothschild: “Bringing Torture Back: Romney Wants to Waterboard Again.”

Now we come to one of the most frightening caricatures of our rule of law by the Obama administration — supported by our commander in chief — the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012, which allows our military to imprison indefinitely without trial American citizens somehow “associated with” or giving “substantial support” to suspected terrorists.

As we have come to expect from Romney, he has flip-flopped on the NDAA. The October 10 Huffington Post story also reported: “Mitt Romney dodged a question Wednesday on whether he would have vetoed a bill that included indefinite detention, even though he has previously said he would have signed it.”

Cautiously, he added, “ ‘I’ll look at that particular piece of legislation.’”

Maybe a rising tide of protest, some of it bipartisan, against this endless imprisonment of our citizens who haven’t gone before a court caused Romney to bite his tongue.

Nonetheless, as this same report confirms, during an earlier debate in January, Romney said of Obama’s dreadful NDAA that “he would have supported the bill and indefinite detention.

“ ‘Yes, I would have,’ he said, receiving boos from the crowd. ‘And I do believe that it is appropriate to have in our nation the capacity to detain people who are threats to this country, who are members of al Qaeda.’”

But, sir, as Election Day is almost upon us, I ask you how, as president, you would be so confident to cage an American citizen without him or her having had their fundamental constitutional right to defend themselves in an American court? Shouldn’t the government be required to produce documented evidence that shows the detained American was or is a member of al-Qaida?

I have written previously that I am so intent on getting the current president — who is the most contemptuous of the Constitution in our history — out of office that I will vote for Romney because he isn’t Obama.

But will Romney be any stronger a defender of the Constitution than Obama — even when he swears to uphold it after being elected? Do I want Romney to fill the next vacancies on the Supreme Court? I am already on record right here, using the First Amendment, to strongly question his constitutional values.

Will Romney’s FBI, under its domestic surveillance rules, then put me on a “threat assessment” list, as J. Edgar Hoover did? And what about the American citizens in the NDAA’s cages?

I’m not voting for Romney. Why trust ourselves to him after four years of Obama? I’m going to write in Rand Paul on the ballot. That’s Rand, not Ron.

I know he keeps reading the Constitution.

Nat Hentoff is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and an authority on the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights.