How HRC can resolve the ambiguity about torture in today’s Washington Post story.

If Hillary Clinton didn’t intend to evade the torture question (as her handlers and her friends in the blogosphere insist) there are two things she can do about it:

1. Issue a simple statement: “When I’m President, there will be no waterboarding, no cold room, no sensory deprivation, no ‘long time standing,’ and no renditions.”

2. File, and ask for hearings on, a bill for the relief of Khaled al-Masri.

Unless she does one of those things, those of us for whom torture is a deal-breaker will have to conclude that her ambiguity was and is deliberate, either because she thinks it would be bad general-election strategy to be too far out there on behalf of human decency or because she’s not ready to limit her Presidential options with respect to the maltreatment of captives.

Update The Obama campaign decided to go after HRC on this, giving her campaign a chance to disambiguate as suggested above. No such luck. Instead, all we got was this rather Rovian let’s-change-the-subjec-to-an-attack-on-the-critic:

It’s unfortunate that Barack Obama is abandoning the politics of hope as his campaign stagnates and is launching false attacks on other Democrats instead. Senator Clinton explicitly stated that we “have to draw a bright line” against torture and “abide by the Geneva conventions.” Senator Obama’s attacks won’t bring change to America, but Senator Clinton’s strength and experience will.

I sent a polite note to Peter Daou, HRC’s director of on-line communications (heard from on this issue by both Kevin Drum and Greg Sargent) a polite note with links to this post and the previous post and a promise to print any response verbatim. The rest (so far) is silence.

Whether or not HRC was deliberately ambiguous in her comments to the WaPo, it seems to me that her campaign is deliberately maintaining the ambiguity she created. Waterboarding, the cold room, “long time standing,” sensory deprivation, renditions, “disappearances” into secret prisons: these are simple, concrete issues. Where does Her Inevitability stand?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: