"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."
Rudy Giuliani says.
John McCain says: "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."
Is "experience" the real issue here? On experience, Giuliani has his standard — and effective — comeback: 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."
The real concern is human rights and constitutional rights. What techniques did Giuliani use against Mafiosi when he was U.S. Attorney? Presumably, he rigorously adhered to constitutional law. If he didn't, I want to hear about it.
But to the extent that Giuliani is asserting that intensive questioning works, he's not saying that all techniques are the same. McCain knows that. You can tell because he uses the weasel word "similar": "When someone says waterboarding is similar to harsh interrogation techniques used against the mafia...."
McCain's quote, read carefully, is pretty much of a non sequitur. Intense interrogation, physical discomfort, things that approach torture, outright torture — these things are all on a continuum and the question where to draw the line is important. That is, these things are different in that some will be on one side of the line and some will be on the other. But they are also similar in that they are on a continuum and that they have to do with the observation that harsh interrogation is effective.
What does this have to do with "experience to lead our military"? All I can see there is McCain obliquely reminding us that he served in the military and he was tortured. That gives weight to his insistence that the United States must never engage in torture, but does it engage with Giuliani's point or talk right past it? It's muddled, but what I divine from it all is that when it comes time to draw the line on the continuum and say at what point the United States will stop, Giuliani will allow more. This isn't a difference in experience. It's a difference in balancing national security and compassion for the individual.
Video of Giuliani: