Mark Levin, the conservative talk-radio host, normally devotes himself to blasting liberals.
Not this week. The radio clown has found something a target far worse. Instead of targeting Hillary Clinton, John Kerry or Nancy Pelosi, Levin has targeted Sen. John McCain – with a steady flow of pre-screened callers agreeing with him.
Why? Because McCain had the gall to legislate a formal ban on the cruel or inhumane treatment of detainees in US custody anywhere in the world. After resisting the measure for months, and at one point vowing to veto a Defense Department appropriations bill to get his way, President Bush this week flip-flopped, relenting to bipartisan support for McCain’s bill.
The White House had argued that existing rules banning torture did not necessarily apply in cases involving foreign suspects being questioned by US operatives on foreign soil. The McCain bill closes that loophole by saying such restrictions apply “regardless of nationality or physical location.”
Levin is so angry with McCain that he vowed on yesterday’s edition of his syndicated show to do anything in his power to prevent the Arizona Republican from receiving his party’s 2008 presidential nomination. On tonight’s show, he said he would rather vote for his dogs than McCain.
Callers have been equal to Levin’s “angry right” shtick. One caller suggested McCain was a “Manchurian Candidate” who had been brainwashed against torture during his five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Levin didn’t argue against the caller, who (perhaps inadvertently) referenced part of a whisper campaign used by the Bush campaign in 2000 to sway South Carolina voters against McCain.
Levin argued that McCain – who remains popular among independents and fans of such shows as CBS’ Late Show With David Letterman and Comedy Central’s Daily Show With Jon Stewart – had gotten soft because of his exposure to liberals. The way the radio clown explained it, you would think liberalism was contagious.
So why are conservatives like Levin so angry about this legislation?
The White House argued that the legislation was unnecessary because of existing laws banning torture. Last month, CIA Chief Porter Goss said: “This agency does not do torture. Torture does not work.” Bush himself insistedlast month: “We do not torture.” Fox News Channel anchor Brit Hume, serving in his normal capacity as conservative apologist, argued earlier this week that the much criticized practice of “waterboarding” – the act of pouring water over a prisoner to make him think he is about to drown – does not constitute torture.
In other words, either the US isn’t practicing torture, or it is desperately trying to spin that idea on anyone who will listen, most notably McCain.
In October, Goss and Vice President Dick Cheney each fought to have the CIA exempted from the legislation, so as to give the president “maximum flexibility” as he fights a “global war on terror.”
McCain said no.
Levin and his callers won’t soon forget.
This item first appeared at Journalists Against Bush’s B.S.