House Fails to Override Bush’s Veto of Torture Bill

The House of Representatives fell 51 votes short of an override of President Bush’s veto of the ban on waterboarding.

By a vote of 225-188, the House has failed to override the veto. During the debate, Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, sided with preserving torture. Curiously, he asked “What are the priorities of this House?” I thought that answer was clear in his oath. He is supposed to uphold the Constitution. One of the priorities of this nation is to prevent a president from committing crimes in office. Then there is our long priority of banning all forms of torture. The only priority shown by these members is to protect the president at any cost — even at the cost of our principles.

Both democrats and republicans have already guaranteed that Bush will not be held accountable for the torture program. After effectively decriminalizing torture, the objections heard from Democrats should be met with a healthy degree of scorn.

Now that he is certain not to face any criminal investigation by either the Justice Department, click here, or any congressional investigation, here, Bush is free to treat the matter as simply one of presidential tastes. Indeed, as noted in an earlier column, waterboarding techniques have become the subject of almost casual discussion by Bush officials.

In his veto statement, Bush felt so comfortable that torture has been decriminalized that he openly stated his desire to use it when needed: “The bill Congress sent me would take away one of the most valuable tools in the war on terror . . . So today I vetoed it. This is no time for Congress to abandon practices that have a proven track record of keeping America safe.”

Of course, before Bush, we had long ago abandoned such practices when we criminalized torture. However, such practices are back in vogue in the United States. In the meantime, the Attorney General continues to apply Mukasey’s paradox, here.

What is most curious is the response of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who insisted that “We will not stop until [the ban] becomes law.” The fact is that waterboarding was already criminal. It was long defined as a war crime. However, Democrats have struggled to pretend that there is some ambiguity in the status of waterboarding to excuse their own failure to act. Feinstein is responsible for saving Mukasey’s confirmation over his refusal to recognize that waterboarding is torture — guaranteeing that neither he nor Bush would be forced to deal with the question.

25 thoughts on “House Fails to Override Bush’s Veto of Torture Bill”

  1. Rufflaw:

    I ‘m an Adlai Stevenson fan so you know I ‘m going to say about msnbcbser’s style of argument that “he who slings mud generally loses ground.”

  2. Mespo, I have yet to see “msnbc bser” make ANY cogent points. So far, all I’ve seen are personal attacks against anyone who criticizes George II and his buddies.

  3. Mespo727272:

    You thoughts are spot on. Another philosopher put it this way:

    “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.”

    –Friedrich Nietzsche

    This one’s very good. There’s another Chinese (I think) proverb that basically said he (or she) who seeks power over others should never be trusted with it. Unfortunately, I don’t have a name for the Chinese saying.

  4. rufflaw:

    On your comment to msnbcbser above, could you point out to me the occasion when he made a “cogent point”?

  5. Jill:

    As for your very interesting question, I suspect you would not have standing to bring suit to say enjoin the process given your lack of demonstrable legal harm. I don’t think a writ of Qui Tam would help much either here. JT could address this point more fully, of course. I think the victims may have standing, but proof would be almost insurmountable given the classified nature of the evidence. Unfortunately, torture needs to be rooted out by an independent international body if it isstate sponsored, since the government perpetrators and their willing apparatchicks have every reason to hide the evidence away as state secrets.

  6. msnbc bs’er,
    Is it possible for you to try to make a cogent point without making personal attacks? First of all, simply being aware of the torture tactics is not the same as ordering it and lying about it. If you could actually do some research, you would know that any Congress person or Senator who publicly disclosed the tactics, could be brought up on charges of disclosing secrets. Secondly, as usual your facts are not accurate. You may want to check into the letter sent by one of he House leadership that objected to the so-called “enhanced interrogation” tactics. But I expect that from you. But, with that said, if the evidence leads to any official, they should be charged. Unlike a hack like yourself, I do care for justice and if Dems get caught in it, so be it. We will be a better nation if any and all parties who have broken the law are brought to justice. I do know that your buddy, George and his friends will be first in line. I am sure that Senator Feingold would prefer if you would spell his name correctly. I am used to you screwing up my name. By the way, George called and asked if you had finished licking his boots yet.

  7. Raflaw: I am still laughing at your post.

    Imagine “retired” President Bush and VP Cheney in a Senate hearing both reading off the list of Democratic party Senators that were fully informed, involved, and had approved every level of the methods used to extract information. Heck, Harry Reid would be one of them listed along with Russ Fiengold!

    So you really REALLY think the Democrats want this on the front page “Bush lists 12 Democratic Senators that approved extraction methods” followed the next day by “Cheney provides documents evidencing full House Leadership approved extraction methods”.

    LOL. YOu are a joke; you cannot think politically beyond the end of your nose!

  8. rafflaw: are you going to send Jay Rockefeller and the whole Senate Intelligence Committee to jail also since they were part of the “informed” on what we were doing to extract information?

    How many other Senate Committee members that were fully informed and brifed should we indict? Do you really think Democratic leadership wants to frog march their own party Senators to jail just to get a former President?

    You and several others here have screws loose.

  9. I know I’ve wondered this before but I must ask. As torture is illegal, do we as citizens have any way of bringing suit against the perpetrators? Is there an international court that we could go to? What are the legal options open to citizens, if any?

  10. fRanco:

    You thoughts are spot on. Another philosopher put it this way:

    “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.”

    –Friedrich Nietzsche

  11. msnbcbser:

    “Thank God we have a President who stands up to Congress.” Yeah who needs popularly elected representatives when we have such a fine leader supported by about 22% of the people who is even now holding the line in support of torture. C’mon now msnbc admit it. I know you are typing this drivel while standing at full stiff arm salute with your jackboots shined and listening to Wagner operas.

  12. There is no need to have Congress overrule the veto. We just have to wait a few more months before George W. will be out of office and subject to prosecution in the U.S. and internationally for ordering torture. Torture is already illegal as Patty C. has mentioned and I am confident that the next Attorney General will investigate and indict those who have committed these grievous acts of torture. The next AG will also investigate those that ordered the torture including those OLC attorneys who profferred the bogus opinions to authorize it for George and his fellow felons. Thank God we will soon have a Democratic President and an impartial Justice department who will stand up to the immoral and illegal acts perpetrated by the Bush administration.

  13. Torture was illegal then, continues to be illegal now, and will be in the future – no matter what Bush et al did or what they/he say he did in the past.

    JT would know better, but I doubt the signing or lack thereof matters
    – much. If anything I think it signals they believe they were on shakily revised and questionable legal grounds in the former.

    We’ve heard the saying “wouldn’t want to touch it with a ten-foot pole.

  14. “The fact is that waterboarding was already criminal. It was long defined as a war crime. However, Democrats have struggled to pretend that there is some ambiguity in the status of waterboarding to excuse their own failure to act.”

    What a shocker.

  15. An almost straight party-line vote. The uniformity of the Republican vote (excepting two states) was astounding considering that an issue of conscience was on the table. You would have expected at least 40 affirmative votes from their side. But the party discipline there is so terribly strong, that you really can’t call them legislators anymore, they are simply vote machines programmed by the leadership. It is actually an embarrassment to watch them vote at times like this as the moral bankruptcy is so terribly, terrifically, shamefully evident.

    The Dem leadership shares the blame.

  16. Arabella, I agree; in fact, I’ll say I’m DISGUSTED with this Congress! From what I have seen of them, they have done absolutely nothing to check the President’s unhealthy lust for torture in his ludicrous claim that it “keeps America safe.” Yeah. Right. What these “geniuses” in Congress fail to realize is the danger to THEMSELVES if the President for any reason decides that one of them is an “enemy combatant” (ie terrorist), or someone in their family. We’re rapidly heading into a police state, if we’re not there already, and as far as I’m concerned, this Congress helped bring this clear and present danger to ALL American citizens to pass.

  17. This is crazy. We WILL win (or have we already won) this “war” on “terror”….and when we do, we will look at ourselves and ask, what have we become? Our nation’s history in NOT endorsing torture defined us, it sent a message to the world about our morals and value of human life. Are we to throw that all down the drain for this phony and prolonged “war”? I think not. While some may argue that this viewpoint is too theortical and not practical in today’s day and age, I disagree. Do we spend all this $ on army intelligence, spies, technology, etc, just to end up strapping a guy to a board and simulate drowning? Bush called torture ‘the most valuable tool’ in this war. The MOST valuable? Really? What year is it, who are we, what have we become? …At least I can count myself out of “we”….


  18. I am so OVER this Congress. Spitzer resigns because he spent some serious money on call girls (and got caught), while this President not only remains in office, but digs the Presidency deeper into unconstitutional HE** – wiretaps (perhaps what snagged Spitzer – I didn’t think he was a foreign agent), politicizing the DOJ, appointing crony jurists, and now virtually guaranteeing this country’s use of torture in perpetuity.

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