Andrew McCarthy at NRO penned an excellent, must-read piece:
“Culture Rot: Donald Trump Is the Effect, Not the Cause”
Before our very eyes, the corruption of cultural standards begets the corruption of law and politics. The coarsest part of the debate was Trump’s boorish boast (for which I’m willing to take him at his word, lest the next debate sink to a new low). The most egregious part, though, was Trump’s vow that, as commander-in-chief, he would compel the finest, best-trained armed forces in the history of the planet to commit war crimes — because there are evil people doing unspeakable things, as if that never happened before.
For a number of years in the mid-aughts, we debated the merits vel non of waterboarding. I defended the legality of this interrogation method — in the restrained practice of the CIA, not as cruelly administered historically — mostly based on a strict interpretation of the federal torture statute. It was not an endorsement of the tactic in any particular case. The opposition’s point was well taken that the existence of a legal justification (which they did not concede) would not necessarily make the use of waterboarding good policy. We volleyed ticking-bomb scenarios and slippery slopes back and forth.
As a lawyer, I instinctively believed we should be able to write rules clarifying the extremely rare circumstances in which aggressive tactics could be used. Critics forcefully countered that the very writing of rules was an authorization that would be stretched to cover non-dire circumstances. Jonah Goldberg reminded us about the “hidden law,” which as applied here, counsels forbidding across the board that which should be forbidden in almost all situations, in the belief that if a dire emergency did arise, good people would act outside the law, do what had to be done, and hope that others would understand and forgive.
Since I have already vented in the comments on Mr. McCarthy’s piece, let me just paste it here and be done for today: