The Rachel Maddow Show | April 04, 2012
>>> the positions i'm taking now on the budget and a host of others issues, if we had been having this discussion 20 years ago, or even 15 years ago, would have been considered squarely centrist positions. what's changed is the center of the republican party . cap and trade was originally proposed by conservatives and republicans as a market-based solution to solving environmental problems. there's a reason why there's a little bit of confusion in the republican primary about health care and the individual mandates since it originated as a conservative idea. now, suddenly, this is some socialist overreach. ronald reagan , who, as i recall, is not accused of being a tax and spend socialist, understood repeatedly that when the deficits started to get out of control, that for him to make a deal, he would have to propose both spending cuts and tax increases. did it multiple times. he could not get through a republican primary today.
>> ronald reagan could not get through a republican primary today. president obama speaking yesterday to the associated press about how much the republican party has shifted to the right. how republicans ' own policies, its own heroes, would be denounced as too left wing by today's radicalized conservative republicans . this is a true thing about the republican party , and it is a potentially devastating thing for independent and centrist voters to realize about the republican party . and so the administration has been repeatedly making this case for a while now. when vice president biden makes the case, he says things like, this is not your father's republican party anymore. president obama himself has been throwing his own policies back into the faces of his republican critics, trying to get them to acknowledge that they, themselves, used to support those policies. speaking at a fund-raiser last month, the president said, "in 2008 , the guy i was running against, the republican nominee, he didn't deny that climate change might be a problem. he thought it was a good idea for us to ban torture. he was on record as having supported immigration reform ." president obama there making the case that the policies embraced by the last republican presidential nominee , with even just in the last election cycle, are now seen as way too left-wing for today's republicans . cap and trade, the republicans in 2008 , senator mccain supported that. the dream act , the republicans in 2008 , senator mccain , supported that. and a ban on torture. john mccain himself a survivor of prison torture after he was shot down and captured in vietnam. john mccain led the fight within his own party to ban torture and then he won his party's nomination for president of the united states .
>> well, governor, i'm astonished that you haven't found out what waterboarding is.
>> i know what waterboarding is, senator.
>> then i would astonished that you would think such a torture would be inflicted on anyone that we are held captive and anyone could believe that that's not torture. it's in violation of the geneva conventions , it's in violation of existing law.
>> john mccain beat mitt romney in that contest. he won the presidential nomination in 2008 . and during that campaign, mr. romney repeatedly refused to say that waterboarding a person was a way of torturing that person. did mitt romney 's point of view win out in today's republican party ? is that another one of these issues in which even the politics of john mccain and sarah palin in 2008 are too left wing now for today's republicans ? we may be about to find out. every time the romney campaign thinks that the george w. bush presidency no longer lurks in the shadows of mr. romney 's own efforts to capture the nomination this year, out comes a sinewy hand from under the bed to grab at mr. romney 's bare ankles. today, three years after the freedom of information act requests were filed for it, today the "wired" magazine reporter, spencer ackerman , and the national security a archive at george washington university finally got their hands on a document written by this man, phillip zelikow , he ran the 9/11 commission, was condoleezza rice 's lawyer at the state department . at the beginning of the obama presidency in 2009 , the obama administration released memos in which the bush administration had told itself that torturing people was legal. that as they read the law, cia interrogators couldn't be prosecuted for torturing anyone, because torture was legal, as they saw it. torture is not legal. torture is illegal. and as a top lawyer at the bush state department , philip zelikow circulated a letter within the administration saying that essentially the administration was kidding itself in trying to say that there was some way around the law here. they were trying to give a legal green light to cia interrogators to torture people, but that green light , he said, was a sham. after the obama administration released those sham memos from the bush administration , philip zelikow disclosed that he had written this dissent. he said he had written this dissent at the time, but he said that i cannot disclose it to you, because the bush administration tried to cover it up and pretend like it never existed.
>> i heard the memo was not considered appropriate for further discussion and that copies of my memo should be collected and destroys.
>> philip zelikow said that the white house attempted to collect and destroy all the existing copies of this memo in which he called bullpucky on how the bush administration was trying to say torture was legal. i got a chance to ask him about that on this show. why do you think they tried to destroy every copy of the memo that they knew existed? and how did you find out that they did try to destroy copies of the memo?
>> well, i found out because i was told, i mean, we're trying to collect these and destroy them, and you have a copy, don't you? but i -- the -- i know that copies were obtained in my building. i think copies still exist. why would they destroy them? that's a question they'll have to answer. obviously, if you want -- you want to eliminate records because you don't want people to be able to find them.
>> am i right in thinking that they would want to erase any evidence of a dissenting view in the administration , because it would undercut the legal authority of the advice in those memos, the advice that those techniques would be legal?
>> that's what i thought at the time. i had the same reaction you did. but i don't know why they wanted to do it.
>> within the george w. bush administration , they wrote a legal justification for torture. there was dissent within the administration on that. the bush administration disagreed with the dissent, they tried to eliminate evidence that dissent ever existed, and today that dissent came to the light. philip zelikow 's memo, tearing apart the legal justifications for torture that the bush administration was counting on to say that torture was legal, this memo that was circulated and read in which they attempted to make disappear during the bush administration , now it is out in the light of day . and if the republican party were still the republican party of john mccain , with this would open up a whole new can of political worms. because the obama administration , remember, looked into bush administration -ordered torture, and they decided not to prosecute any of it. they decided, effectively, that the bush administration was operating on good faith when they ordered torture? they thought it was legal. probably not, actually. it turns out they had good reason to know it was not legal. so that means it was a crime. it was probably a war crime , not to put too fine a point on it. and that is something that we are legally obligated to prosecute in this country. this reopens the whole question of the legal liability for torture that was administered by the previous administration . the democratic party will be split by this, because the white house politically doesn't want to deal with it, even if it's wrong and even if they know it's wrong. and the republican party still has to figure out who it is. is the republican party still the party of john mccain , which has now the opportunity to outflank the president on a matter of principal here. where the white house knows what the right thing to do is, but they don't want to do it. or are the republicans still the party of george w. bush and mitt romney , who thinks torture's okay. gut