A smart man doesn't blindly leap to the support of questionable characters twice in a row. Then again, Sean Hannity isn't a very smart man. After totally hosing himself with his ebullient support for Cliven Bundy, who ended up being an unapologetic racist, you'd think Hannity might've stepped very carefully for a while -- perhaps exercising some restraint and common sense combined with the very harsh lesson he learned, you know, four days ago. But nope.
Yesterday on his syndicated radio program, Hannity came to the rescue of his Fox News Channel colleague Sarah Palin following her NRA rally crack about how if she were in charge she would baptize terrorists by waterboarding them. Because nothing says "holy sacrament" quite like forcibly restraining a man on a downward-angled board, holding a wet towel over his face, then dumping water over the towel until the man feels like he's going to suffocate and die. As I wrote yesterday, Jesus would've totally been into this. I mean, Palin claims to be very religious -- maybe she discovered a biblical passage that allows baptism through torture and which mitigates how sacrilegious her remarks were.
Hannity's rant began like so.
"Sarah Palin gets the cut of the weekend. You know every liberal would be, 'That's outrageous!'"
Uh, yeah, liberals and a lot of conservatives, too.
"What do you wanna do with terrorists? You know I always like to bring it back to like your basic family unit."
Can you tell where this is going? He's walking right into the most easily-debunked point regarding crime and punishment, perhaps ever. I'll circle back to this point at the end.
"Let's say, God forbid, one day you're in a parking lot, somebody comes and they try and grab, um, all of -- let's say you have three kids -- they try and grab all three of your kids but they only get one."
Wow, he really thought this through. Why on Earth would he include such a bizarre detail? You have three children, and then a kidnapper tries to grab all three in a parking lot but the kidnapper is only able to get one. Why the hell is this relevant? Why not just keep it simple and say a kidnapper grabbed your child?
"Well, let's say they get your three kids."
Oh, for fuck sake!
"And you get one of the people responsible for kidnapping your kids. Let's see. Would you wanna baptize them by waterboarding the guy that took your three children?"
Okay, waterboarding aside, why would you want to baptize the kidnapper? Are you a radical evangelist who simply must baptize everyone you bump into including criminals who kidnapped all three of your kids in a parking lot? Why are you so interested in the holy salvation of a criminal who you presumably hate? Palin really cooked up a big batch of stupid, didn't she.
"I think I would. I think -- as a matter of fact it wouldn't be much of a question. I think I'd baptize him again, and again, and again until I found out where my kids are."
Fine, but you're never going to find your kids because waterboarding has been proven to be an ineffectual means of extracting information. Seriously, if you're really interested in seeing your kids alive again, this is a phenomenally bad idea. Countless professional interrogators have proved this to be true. But Hannity thinks he knows better than trained FBI interrogators, military and intelligence officials? That's rich.
"But what's the difference between that and 3,000 Americans that lost loved ones."
I get what he's trying to say here, but it was 3,000 Americans who were killed -- not who lost loved ones.
"And all these kids growing up with their mothers and fathers after 9/11. What's the difference?"
And there it is, just 1:13 into the rant. 9/11 as an excuse for (very pointless) waterboarding.
"I don't understand the sensibility of liberals."
Yeah, liberals like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), former Sen. John Warner (R-VA) and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. Those liberals?
"You have the guy -- the mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed -- you know how many people got waterboarded? Three. Three! That's it!"
So? Does that make it more effective or moral? And if waterboarding had produced actionable intelligence, it would've been many more than just three. But intelligence operatives quickly discovered that terrorists like Abu Zubaydah stopped talking when the "enhanced interrogation" process began. He'd shut up. So they shifted to the Informed Interrogation Approach, and the serious intelligence began to flow.
"Somebody has your kids and you've got one of the guys who took your kids, would you wanna baptize them by waterboarding?"
Again with the baptizing. Why is it even a part of this hypothetical?
"I just asked the question that way, because I don't think there's one of you listening, not one liberal out there if you have an honest bone in your body that wouldn't say I would do whatever it took. Get the information quickly. Expeditiously."
To repeat, waterboarding doesn't get the information at all -- quickly or otherwise.
"Whatever it took. That's just the way life -- that's just the way we roll. It's the way America rolls."
No, we don't. At least not any more.
To be honest, if I was able to hunt down the guy who kidnapped my hypothetical children, I wouldn't just waterboard him, I'd force him at gunpoint to lead me to my kids. Once I found my kids I'd kill the kidnapper and then I'd sleep like a baby that night.
But that's exactly why we have police, courtrooms, laws, regulations and oversight, otherwise we'd live in a nation of vigilante justice -- of total anarchy, where each of us could torture or kill suspects based on flimsy hunches or worse. Are you sure you've got your man? Are you sure you're baptizing (??) the right guy?
The criminal justice system, with all of its layers of investigation, jurisprudence and civil protections, often convicts and punishes the wrong people. Comparatively, what do you think Sean Hannity's record would be? He couldn't even sniff out the potential for racial bigotry in a guy as screwy as Cliven Bundy. We should be thrilled that he's not serving as police, judge, jury and interrogator against anyone who he thinks has wronged him.
Indeed, there are many things the U.S. ought to be doing about terrorists, but those things should be confined to what's truly effective; what fits into American laws and the rules of war; and what best reflects our values as a nation. Waterboarding fails to satisfy any of those qualifications. And the fact that knuckleheads like Sarah Palin and Sean Hannity appear to be the only two people who are vocally supporting it should speak volumes.