On the December 9 edition of his Hardball program, host Chris Matthews suggested that former Vice President Dick Cheney is a masochist who should not be trusted with the call about when to deploy potentially torturous enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorist detainees.
The comment came in the middle of a debate featuring Salon.com's Joan Walsh and former RNC chairman Michael Steele about the just-released Senate Intelligence Committee report regarding the CIA's use of waterboarding and other enhanced-interrogation techniques during the Bush administration. Walsh staked out the position that waterboarding was torture and never acceptable as an interrogation technique, whereas Steele allowed it may constitute torture but that it is morally acceptable in certain circumstances to save lives.
For his part, Matthews agreed with Steele, although he found room to get in a dig at former Vice President Dick Cheney:
MICHAEL STEELE: At the end of the day, this thing becomes a canard, a farce. And I think it harms us overall.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you a question. Do you trust a guy like Dick Cheney to make the call? When we torture? And how we do it? Do you trust him?
STEELE: He's vice president. If he's authorized by the president or if he's authorized within the system, yeah. Why wouldn't you?
MATTHEWS: Because I think some people are a little more eager--
STEELE: Who else has the authority, Chris?!
MATTHEWS: -- some people are a little more eager to torture than others. I honestly think that.
STEELE: That's a personal judgment, you're --
MATTHEWS: It is my personal judgment! I have to make a judgment on it.
JOAN WALSH: And that's why we make it illegal. That's why we make it illegal. So it's not whether I like Dick Cheney or I like Barack Obama or I like George Bush or I like Dianne Feinstein. That's why we signed on to the Geneva Conventions. That's why it's illegal. That's why it's a war crime. And that's why we shouldn't do it.