Tortured politics

Aspirant Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s announcement that he stands “foursquare behind the president” on the interrogation question illustrates the quandary the White House finds itself in over the issue of detainee treatment. George W. Bush’s legacy will be Iraq. And it is clear that John McCain is the Republican most able to sell continued ...

607064_bush_charlotte15.jpg
607064_bush_charlotte15.jpg

Aspirant Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's announcement that he stands "foursquare behind the president" on the interrogation question illustrates the quandary the White House finds itself in over the issue of detainee treatment.

George W. Bush's legacy will be Iraq. And it is clear that John McCain is the Republican most able to sell continued involvement there to the American public. He's in total sympathy with Bush's aspirations for Iraq. Indeed, McCain was one of the Senate co-sponsors of the Iraq Liberation Act way back in 1998. So, playing hardball with McCain on this current torture dispute and hurting McCain's chances in the Republican primary would be self-defeating for Bush - and his legacy. This explains why the White House is going out of its way to be civil, like with Stephen Hadley talking about the "need to find a way through that obstacle course." The prediction that 9/11 widows would be used to attack those who oppose the president's proposed bill has yet to come to pass.

One other thing that stuck out in all the coverage this weekend was this comment from McCain: "George Shultz said I could say that he strongly favors our position." Shultz, Ronald Reagan's Secretary of State, is Condi Rice's mentor and the man who introduced her to W. One can't help but wonder if she's using Shultz to send a message?

Aspirant Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s announcement that he stands “foursquare behind the president” on the interrogation question illustrates the quandary the

White House finds itself in over the issue of detainee treatment.

George W. Bush’s legacy will be Iraq. And it is clear that John McCain is the Republican most able to sell continued involvement there to the American public. He’s in total sympathy with Bush’s aspirations for Iraq. Indeed, McCain was one of the Senate co-sponsors of the Iraq Liberation Act way back in 1998. So, playing hardball with McCain on this current torture dispute and hurting McCain’s chances in the Republican

primary would be self-defeating for Bush – and his legacy. This explains why the White House is going out of its way to be civil, like with Stephen Hadley talking about the “need to find a way through that obstacle course.” The prediction that 9/11 widows would be used to attack those who oppose the president’s proposed bill has yet to come to pass.

One other thing that stuck out in all the coverage this weekend was this comment from McCain: “George Shultz said I could say that he strongly favors our position.” Shultz, Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State, is Condi Rice’s mentor and the man who introduced her to W. One can’t help but wonder if she’s using Shultz to send a message?

James Forsyth is assistant editor at Foreign Policy.

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