By Sasha Issenberg
MASON CITY, Iowa – The Republican debate over torture has become a debate over resumes, as John McCain warns from personal experience about the dangers of harsh questioning and Rudy Giuliani takes credit for his skill with it as a prosecutor.
“When someone says waterboarding is similar to harsh interrogation techniques used against the mafia in New York City, they do not have enough experience to lead our military,” McCain said Sunday night at a town-hall meeting here.
McCain, a leading critic of attorney-general nominee Michael B. Mukasey’s refusal to define waterboarding as illegal, was responding to comments made Friday by Giuliani in which the former U.S. attorney – in broad, unspecific terms – appeared to defend the practice.
“Intensive questioning works,” Giuliani told Bloomberg TV. “If I didn't use intensive questioning, there would be a lot of Mafia guys running around New York right now, and crime would be a lot higher in New York than it is.”
McCain’s shot at Giuliani’s credentials was the latest in an increasingly hostile back-and-forth on Friday between a pair who used to exclaim their mutual respect, as the issue of torture’s definition – once treated in Washington as an abstract issue of international law – has come to be personalized between the two Republican contenders.
On Friday, McCain, a former POW, criticized pro-torture opponents who “chose to do other things when this nation was fighting its wars.”
Giuliani, who never served in the military, said McCain “has never run a city, never run a state, never run a government. He has never been responsible as a mayor for the safety and security of millions of people, and he has never run a law enforcement agency, which I have done.”