early and often

Rubio Won’t Reveal His Position on Waterboarding Hillary

Marco Rubio Holds Campaign Town Hall In South Carolina
You’re on notice, Hillary. Photo: Spencer Platt/2016 Getty Images

Should a former First Lady, U.S. senator, and secretary of State who has not been charged with any crime have water repeatedly poured over her head to simulate drowning? Marco Rubio won’t say.

While speaking before a standing-room-only crowd at a campaign rally in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, on Tuesday night, the Florida senator was forthcoming about his plans for the U.S. military base in Cuba where hundreds of people have been held without being charged. “This is a message to the Cuban government and anyone who’s listening: We’re keeping Guantanamo — forever,” Rubio said. “We’re keeping it forever. It’s a good base.”

But when a man shouted “waterboard Hillary,” prompting laughter from the crowd, Rubio became evasive. “I don’t want to know what he said … the press is here,” he joked. “I didn’t hear what they said,” he added, shrugging. “I know it wasn’t a bad word, that’s all that matters.”

Some have interpreted Rubio’s failure to defend fellow presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as a sign that U.S. political discourse has become shamefully vicious since 2008, when John McCain informed a voter that Barack Obama was a “decent person,” not a scary, secret Arab.

But Rubio’s reaction is actually consistent with his larger stance on torture. Last summer, Rubio was the only member of the U.S. Senate not present when his colleagues overwhelmingly supported a new prohibition on “enhanced interrogation” techniques. Rubio explained that he was too busy campaigning, but said in a statement that he would have voted no on the amendment. “I do not support telegraphing to the enemy what interrogation techniques we will or won’t use,” he said, adding that he doesn’t want to deny “future commanders in chief and intelligence officials important tools for protecting the American people and the U.S. homeland.”

When asked if he thinks waterboarding is torture at the New Hampshire debate earlier this month, Rubio was similarly cagey. “We should not be discussing in a widespread way the exact tactics that we’re going to use because that allows terrorists to know to practice how to evade us,” he said. “But, here’s the bigger problem with all this, we’re not interrogating anybody right now.”

We can read between the lines. Everyone should know that President Marco Rubio won’t rule out using “enhanced interrogation” techniques on anyone who tries to commit an act of terrorism against the United States — or, you know, holds different political opinions than he does.

What’s Rubio’s ‘Waterboard Hillary’ Stance?