As the intra-party feud between the Cheney/neocon crew of the GOP and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and his fellow intervention skeptics continues, here's another dicey matter for the warring parties to battle over: torture. The Cheney crowd fervently defends the Bush administration's use of harsh interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding, and fiercely rejects referring to these tactics as torture. But in a 2009 interview posted on YouTube, Rand Paul denounced such practices as torture and said, "Bush had given these orders that allowed torture to occur." Paul, though, noted that he was not in favor of prosecuting Bush or former vice president Dick Cheney, comparing the question of whether to put them on trial for torture to the case of President Gerald Ford pardoning the disgraced former President Richard Nixon. And in another 2009 interview, Paul called on the GOP to disassociate itself from Cheney because the ex-veep was defending his administration's use of torture.
The Cheney-Paul clash, reflecting the sharp divide within the GOP between hawks and those who question the party's traditional support of aggressive military intervention, has intensified in recent weeks. Speaking at a private meeting of Republican funders and activists in Las Vegas on March 29, Cheney warned that there was "an increasing strain of isolationism" within the GOP, and he slammed the less hawkish members of his party. He didn't name names, but the message was clear: He meant Rand Paul, among others. (At that gathering, Cheney also approvingly talked about bombing Iran.) And several days later, after Mother Jones revealed that in 2008 and 2009 Paul had accused Cheney of exploiting 9/11 to start the Iraq war to benefit Halliburton, the military contractor where Cheney had once been CEO, the former vice president's allies attacked Paul. His daughter, Liz Cheney, said, "It's not surprising since Senator Paul often seems to get his foreign policy talking points from Rachel Maddow." John Bolton, a hawk's hawk who served as UN ambassador during the Bush-Cheney administration, emailed a conservative columnist, "Senator Paul should repudiate his remarks and apologize to Vice President Cheney."