Conservative columnist David Gelernter -- who is being dropped from the Los Angeles Times opinion page just seven months after becoming a weekly columnist -- claimed that Vice President Dick Cheney is a "hero" for advocating that the CIA be exempt from Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) amendment to the 2006 defense appropriations bill requiring humane treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody (SA 1977). According to Gelernter, opponents of the McCain amendment think "that sometimes the CIA should be required to squeeze the truth out of prisoners." Gelernter wrote that Cheney is a "hero" for "tak[ing] a principled stand that you know will make people loathe and vilify you -- that's what integrity, leadership and moral courage are all about."
From Gelernter's November 11 Los Angeles Times column:
But of course you don't have to be "pro-torture" to oppose the McCain amendment. That naive misunderstanding summarizes the threat posed by this good-hearted, wrong-headed legislation. Those who oppose the amendment don't think the CIA should be permitted to use torture or other rough interrogation techniques. What they think is that sometimes the CIA should be required to squeeze the truth out of prisoners. Not because the CIA wants to torture people, but because it may be the only option we've got.
Those who defend McCain's amendment and attack Cheney and Bush feel a nice warm glow, as if they're basking in virtue, as in a hot tub, sipping Cabernet. But there is no virtue in joining a crowd, even if the crowd is right -- and this one isn't.
McCain is a bona fide hero. But there's nothing courageous in standing firm with virtually the whole cultural leadership of this nation and the Western world, under any circumstances. It's too easy. To take a principled stand that you know will make people loathe and vilify you -- that's what integrity, leadership and moral courage are all about. This time Cheney is the hero. McCain is taking the easy out.