Moral Issues

I'm one of those "single issue values voters" who will always choose the anti-abortion candidate. It's not that I think abortion is the only important moral issue, or even the most important one. The next president of the United States will be making all sorts of massive life and death decisions, and very few of those decisions will have anything to do with abortion at all.

But although the moral decisions the president will have to make on issues like national security, foreign relations, and economic policy may actually be more important, they're also really, really complicated. All of these things are case-by-case issues, complex decisions with all sorts of facets that must be weighed very carefully. Especially in a time of war, the president is faced with all sorts of enormously compex ethical decisions. I'm not qualified to make those decisions, and certainly no one is qualified to make those decision who flunks out on the simple questions.

The abortion question, on the other hand, is pretty simple and straightforward.

Killing babies is bad.


Anyone who believes otherwise has some very serious problems with his moral intuitions. And that's not the sort of person I want making important ethical decisions for our nation and the world.


Torture is another one of the simple questions.

Torture is bad. Period. And however "vague" the Geneva Convention might have been, I think we all know that any attempt to extract information by means of cruelty is torture.

Anyone who can't figure that one out is not qualified to be making the sorts of complex moral decisions involved in the presidency.

I am astounded at how secondary an issue this is for voters who would never dream of supporting a pro-abortion candidate.

In discussions on the candidates, I kept hearing "well, I don't like McCain because of a, b, and c, but I do respect him for his stance on torture."

Silly me, in my naivete, I thought they were just talking about the active way he's spoken out against torture, how through his own horrific experiences he's been able utterly dismantle the notion that torture can ever save lives. He knows from experience that the torturer has no means of distinguishing between true information and false information, and that the tortured has absolutely no motivation for giving accurate information rather than rattling off the names of all the players on the Red Sox.

No, they meant that unlike other prominent candidates in the Republican party, McCain would refrain from authorizing torture.

John McCain and Ron Paul call a spade a spade, and speak clearly against torture. You'd think that would be a given--I guess not. Huckabee appears to oppose torture, but he leaves an awful lot of wiggle room in his words. It's not an automatic disqualifier, but I'm a bit nervous about anyone who needs to defer to McCain's experience in order to decide that "enhanced interrogation techniques" involving simulated drowning qualify as torture. The world has truly gone mad when Huckabee's wishy-washy statements are notably praiseworthy, rather than a red flag. Perhaps he has made--or will make--clearer statements, without the loopholes. If so, that's great.

As for the others, I could care less about any other qualifications they may have. They may be superb businessmen, governors, and mayors, but they have no business running for president.



Sarah Marie said...

David Ortiz, Manny Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, Jonathan Papelbon, Dice-K Matsuzaka, Josh Beckett, Julio Lugo, Mike Lowell, Curt Schilling, Coco Crisp... hehe.

Thanks for your recent posts on politics. I'm appreciating them muchly. Quite a few Massachusetts folks out here support Romney... it's nice to hear from someone who doesn't think 'business experience' or 'solid understanding of economics' (???) is the end-all for a presidential candidate.

Emily (Laundry and Lullabies) said...

"I think we all know that any attempt to extract information by means of cruelty is torture."

Actually, Elena, this is way too vague to be a "this is true, period" statement. How do you define "cruelty"? Is it pretty easy to say that it is cruel to pull their teeth out or cut off their fingernails. But there are many people who would say it is cruel to keep them isolated from others, or cruel not to feed them really nice food, or cruel not to let them have access to a soft bed and plenty of sleep.

An example of what I mean by the problems with the definition of "cruelty" is the debate going on in the courts right now about capital punishment. Is it cruel to give someone a shot that stops their heart? Just how painful is it (if at all)? Obviously this isn't exactly the same question, but it does make my point: simply saying that we know it is wrong to be "cruel" doesn't help the discussion. You have to define your terms, and I think you'll have a hard time finding a definition we can all agree on.

Now, just to clarify: I do not think we should be pulling out people's fingernails to get information. But I do think that it is ok to make prisoners pretty darn uncomfortable, and I know that many people would (depending on their personal definition) say that that means I approve of "torture".

I just think it is WAY more complicated than your post implies.

Emily (Laundry and Lullabies) said...

Oh, and I'm enjoying your political posts, too. :)

Elena said...

Yes, there are a lot of gray areas involved in the question of what constitutes torture. But do you really think that waterboarding is one of them?

I agree that there are a lot of complicated issues regarding what counts as cruelty.

But I do think that all attempts to extract information through mistreatment are essentially the same practice, and have essentially the same problems. In as much as torture is effective, the more heinous the cruelty, the more effective it is. Yet John McCain and others make an excellent case for why any information obtained this way is worthless.

Everybody gives out names under torture, but seldom the names of co-conspirators.

And everybody confesses under torture, whether innocent or guilty.

Torture is a really great way to obtain scapegoats, but it's a lousy way to get truth.

This is why people who care about the truth give their prisoners the right to remain silent.

The stakes are higher now than they ever were before, but that does not change the nature of truth and justice. It just takes the consequences of getting it wrong to the next level.

If we lose our high moral ground, we are in grave peril indeed.

Elena said...

Oh, and I'm glad you guys are enjoying the political posts. I was wondering if I'd driven everyone up the wall yet! =)