Politics

11.28.12

Kelly Ayotte, Torture Queen

So who is Kelly Ayotte anyway, to be threatening to place an unprecedented (in modern times) hold on a secretary of state nominee? She hasn't done much yet in the Senate, but the one thing she did really try to do was to pass an amendment that could have permitted the United States to torture suspects again.

This all unfolded in late 2011, and the amendment didn't become law. But it's instructive anyway. After Obama limited interrogation techniques to those found in the Army Field Manual, some on the right started barking about how since the field manual is available online, terror suspects would know what they might be subjected to, and somehow of course this added up to appeasement and so forth. Adam Serwer reported at the time for Mother Jones:

"When a member of Al Qaeda or a similar associated terrorist group, I want to them to be terrified about what's going to happen to them in American custody," said Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), explaining his support for the amendment. "I want them not to know what's going to happen, I want that the terror that they inflict on others to be felt by them as a result of the uncertainty that they can look on the Internet and know exactly what our interrogators are limited to." In an exchange with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Ayotte acknowledged that part of her goal was to reauthorize some Bush-era "enhanced interrogation techniques" other than waterboarding.

Great. Something for us all to be proud of. No wonder she picked up where Lieberman left off. Quite a "worthy" successor to him as the third amigo.

She also became known, while her name was briefly on some short lists to be Mitt Romney's veep choice, for parrotting the "apology tour" lie. PolitiFact destroyed her in this post over the summer. Demagogic nonsense, which American voters handily rejected.

I want to emphasize again what a new low in partisan warfare it would be to place a hold on a secretary of state nominee. If there's one cabinet post that just has to be filled, it's that one. State was the first cabinet agency created by Congress, meaning that the secretary of state is the oldest cabinet position, and to most people it's the most venerated and important post of all of them (Treasury logs a few votes).

For one senator, especially a relatively junior one, to deny a reelected president his choice to head State would be rather amazing. I see that some on the right are calling such a potential move payback for what the Democrats did to John Bolton. Not an insane point, but three responses to that.

One: The UN ambassador (which Bush nominated Bolton to) ain't the secretary of state by a longsihot. Two: Bolton had a particularly incendiary history of attacking the UN, the very body before which Bush wanted him to represent our country (which he ultimately did, as a recess appointee).

Remember this quote?:  "The Secretariat building in New York has 38 stories. If it lost ten stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference." I know all our wingers will say that's true, but wingers, imagine a Democrat nominating to head the Pentagon someone who said the building could lose the E ring and it wouldn't make a bit of difference.

Third: Opposition to Bolton was hardly limited to liberal senators. Fifty-nine former diplomats from both parties signed a letter urging Bush not to name Bolton. The day Rice faces that kind of opposition, then the two cases will be parallel. Until then, not so much.