John McCain has now abandoned one of the few aspects of his stand on issues that was reasonably attractive and laudable. I have been reading Matt Welch's excellent book, "McCain: The Myth of a Maverick," which documents numerous shifts in position accompanied by declarations that he has never shifted positions, and prevarications accompanied by promises never to lie, so I shouldn't have been surprised. Nonetheless, this shift is particularly dispiriting. I had allowed myself to believe that this was one position on which he was likely to stand, given that he had already taken whatever grief was coming to him for this particular deviation from what seems to be (sadly) the new Republican orthodoxy, and his life story was compelling enough that it trumped any serious criticism.
The occasion was Bush's veto of a bill designed to prohibit U.S. agents from using "waterboarding" and other forms of "enhanced interrogation" techniques. McCain announced he would support the veto. Thus another betrayal of whatever traces remain of his better self.
The saddest aspect is that in the wake of Bush-Cheney tortured justifications for torture seem to have become an article of faith for the misguided band who remain unaccountably loyal to this terrible president. The justification here is that the CIA has better-trained interrogators and is likely to be dealing with rougher characters than the military so it shouldn't be bound by the Army Field Manual on interrogation. It also seems to be an expression of Bush-Cheney's drive to enhance the power of the presidency as an unaccountable repository of power vis-a-vis the other branches of government. In fact that may be the issue that persuaded McCain, who is also an unabashed advocate of a Rooseveltian (TR and FDR both) view of untrammeled executive power.
It might also be another way of pandering to what is laughingly called the Republican "base." which is said to be enamored of constant war and torture.
I refuse to believe that all is lost, but this is a sad day for America