The nomination of Gina Haspel to succeed now-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as director of the Central Intelligence Agency went on life support on Wednesday night, when Senator John McCain announced his opposition. McCain said that Haspel hadn’t done enough to address his concerns about the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other heavy-handed, inhumane, and possibly illegal interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects. To McCain’s mind, Haspel’s failure to acknowledge the “immorality” of such practices disqualified her.
Predictably, that didn’t sit well with a number of right-wingers. For instance, retired Air Force lieutenant-general Thomas McInerney suggested that McCain’s ordeal as a POW in Vietnam was proof that torture works. Watch here.
McInerney told Fox Business host Charles Payne that McCain eventually spilled so much to his North Vietnamese captors that he was nicknamed “Songbird John.” To his mind, the fact McCain broke under the strain shows that “those methods can work.” Here’s a sample of other reaction from deplorable Twitter.
But one prominent conservative offered a smear that may have been the worst of all. When right-wing pastor Jesse Lee Peterson learned that McCain opposed Haspel, he suggested that it was because McCain had some, um, issues.
Let’s say it nice and slow, Jesse Lee. Waterboarding is torture. Period. Torture is unacceptable and un-American. Period. McCain knows this as well as anyone on Capitol Hill, having endured it himself. He has been one of the few Republicans to acknowledge that any benefits gained by waterboarding simply were not worth the damage to our nation’s honor.
Drawing a line in the sand on this issue isn’t evidence that you’re “bitter & angry.” It’s not trying to “act a fool.” It’s showing basic decency. Any suggestion that McCain was “destroying himself” by calling out Haspel on this matter is not even human, let alone becoming of someone who is supposedly a minister of the Gospel.
Why “supposedly”? Well, it has already been amply demonstrated that Peterson’s moral compass is fundamentally warped, if not nonexistent. This is a man who actually thanked God for slavery. No, this isn’t snark–watch here.
He believes that anyone who opposes Trump is a child of the devil. He has stated not once, but twice, that blacks were actually better off in the days of Jim Crow than they are now. He believes that Trump, a man who plastered a private cell phone number on social media and mocked a disabled reporter, is a shining example of how a real man should act. He has suggested that the ouster of Bill O’Reilly was “a modern-day lynching” by liberal “children of the lie” who simply want to take down “white males of power.”
It takes a lot of effort to get anywhere near as morally bankrupt as thanking God for slavery and suggesting that blacks were better off during Jim Crow. But suggesting that a war hero who endured torture is just being bitter when he says he won’t support a nominee who can’t unequivocally condemn waterboarding comes pretty close.
In the face of a firestorm of criticism over McInerney’s comments, Payne offered an unreserved apology to McCain for not calling McInerney out right away.
He also apologized on-air.
If Peterson has anything left in him, he will also apologize to McCain. It’s the only further thing we need to hear from him on this matter. Let Peterson have it–politely, of course–on Twitter and on Facebook.
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