Debate Ignores Gamers; Video Game Critic Romney Declines to Condemn Torture Practice

November 29, 2007 -
Like many GamePolitics readers, I was disappointed that none of the videos submitted by gamers made the final cut for last night's CNN/YouTube Republican debate.

To be fair, however, there are many other crucial issues such as Iraq, abortion, gun control, the economy and the influence of religion on politics. Host Anderson Cooper focused on these.

One telling moment for me, however, came when Mitt Romney could not bring himself to condemn the practice of waterboarding. Here's a guy who decries violent video games as part the "cultural cesspool" in which today's children are supposedly swimming but can't even find it within himself to condemn this acknowledged form of torture?

Sen. John McCain - who was a torture victim during his years of captivity by the North Vietnamese - absolutely ripped Romney on the issue and he was right to do so.

For Romney, the take-away is that virtual violence is a horror, but real-life torture is okay.

Governor, your hypocrisy is showing...

Here's the video of McCain-Romney exchange. Full text version after the jump.

UPDATE: Entertainment Consumers Association president Hal Halpin has weighed in on the debate: 
I was disappointed not to see a gamer question in much the same way that I was disheartened not to hear many other secondary, but important, questions posed.

The ECA member I ran into at PAX... put it into context well in that anyone watching a two hour debate on CNN very likely already knows where the candidates stand on the major issues, and it's certainly easy enough to find out otherwise.

What we don't know is where - or even "if" - they stand on the secondary matters. We won't let up however. Consumer rights are topically important and our demographic can and will be motivated to vote, but only if those politicians are willing to make the effort to speak to issues that are important to us.

Andrew Jones: Hello, gentlemen. I'm Andrew, and I'm a college student from Seattle, Washington. Recently, Senator McCain has come out strongly against using waterboarding as an instrument of interrogation.

My question for the rest of you is, considering that Mr. McCain is the only one with any firsthand knowledge on the subject, how can those of you sharing the stage with him disagree with his position?

Cooper: Governor Romney?

Romney: Well, he certainly is an expert and I certainly would want to get his counsel on a matter of this nature, but I do not believe that as a presidential candidate, it is wise for us to describe precisely what techniques we will use in interrogating people.

I oppose torture. I would not be in favor of torture in any way, shape or form.

Cooper: Is waterboarding torture?

Romney: And as I just said, as a presidential candidate, I don't think it's wise for us to describe specifically which measures we would and would not use. And that is something which I would want to receive the counsel not only of Senator McCain, but of a lot of other people.

And there are people who, for many, many years get the information we need to make sure that we protect our country. And, by the way, I want to make sure these folks are kept at Guantanamo. I don't want the people that are carrying out attacks on this country to be brought into our jail system and be given legal representation in this country. I want to make sure that what happened ...


... to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed happens to other people who are terrorists. He was captured. He was the so-called mastermind of the 9/11 tragedy. And he turned to his captors and he said, "I'll see you in New York with my lawyers." I presume ACLU lawyers.


Well, that's not what happened. He went to Guantanamo and he met G.I.s and CIA interrogators. And that's just exactly how it ought to be.


Cooper: Senator McCain?


(Unknown): There were reports Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded.

McCain: Well, governor, I'm astonished that you haven't found out what waterboarding is.

Romney: I know what waterboarding is, Senator.

McCain: Then I am astonished that you would think such a -- such a torture would be inflicted on anyone in our -- who we are held captive and anyone could believe that that's not torture. It's in violation of the Geneva Convention. It's in violation of existing law...


And, governor, let me tell you, if we're going to get the high ground in this world and we're going to be the America that we have cherished and loved for more than 200 years. We're not going to torture people.

We're not going to do what Pol Pot did. We're not going to do what's being done to Burmese monks as we speak. I suggest that you talk to retired military officers and active duty military officers like Colin Powell and others, and how in the world anybody could think that that kind of thing could be inflicted by Americans on people who are held in our custody is absolutely beyond me.

Cooper: Governor Romney, 30 seconds to respond.


Romney: Senator McCain, I appreciate your strong response, and you have the credentials upon which to make that response. I did not say and I do not say that I'm in favor of torture.

I am not. I'm not going to specify the specific means of what is and what is not torture so that the people that we capture will know what things we're able to do and what things we're not able to do. And I get that advice from Cofer Black, who is a person who was responsible for counterterrorism in the CIA for some 35 years.

I get that advice by talking to former generals in our military...

Cooper: Time.

Romney: ... and I don't believe it's appropriate for me, as a presidential candidate, to lay out all the issues one by one...

Cooper: Time.

Romney: ... get questioned one by one: Is this torture, is that torture?

Cooper: Senator McCain...

Romney: And so, that's something which I'm going to take your and other people's counsel on.

Cooper: Senator McCain, 30 seconds to respond.

McCain: Well, then you would have to advocate that we withdraw from the Geneva Conventions, which were for the treatment of people who were held prisoners, whether they be illegal combatants or regular prisoners of war. Because it's clear the definition of torture. It's in violation of laws we have passed.

And again, I would hope that we would understand, my friends, that life is not "24" and Jack Bauer.

Life is interrogation techniques which are humane and yet effective. And I just came back from visiting a prison in Iraq. The Army general there said that techniques under the Army Field Manual are working and working effectively, and he didn't think they need to do anything else.

My friends, this is what America is all about. This is a defining issue and, clearly, we should be able, if we want to be commander in chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, to take a definite and positive position on, and that is, we will never allow torture to take place in the United States of America.




@ Carter

Good point.


what, those little cubes you put in water to make soup?

And what the hell is with the talk about waterboarding on this site? This is a GAMES site, not

Actually, I'm pretty sure this is Dennis McCauley's site, so he can post anything he sees fit. I'm sure you'd agree from the sheer number of comments that plenty of other people feel this is a worthy discussion.

Personally, I think it's a valid topic simply because we're gamers and we're discussing politics - plus, it always irks me when people say, "hey! you can't talk about that here" when they disagree with the opinions expressed on this site.

I wasn't aware Dennis had to be impartial, anyway. This is still a blog, after all.

Oh, I just realized...if thousands of Americans would rather die in a terrorist attack than torture someone, that will probably have the reverse affect of supporting torture.

People will look and see it as another terrorist attack, which it is, and would be in panic. Wanting to end it so there isn't a third attack, they would be more likely to support any means of "information retrieval." It'd be like, say, OJ Simpson. People whom thought he was innocent, then he came out with that stupid book, and that only hurt his cause of being "innocent." If we were attacked again, it'd only hurt the image of equality, leading to support of such illegal tactics.


Since you won't let it drop after me asking nicely I'll say what I had wanted to in the first place. The phrase "separation of church and state" does not appear anywhere in the Constitution OR the Declaration. The phrase is taken, out of context mind you, from a letter Jefferson wrote to one of his constituents. In the letter the constituent expressed concern that the U.S. would create a state church, not unlike the Church of England, and that to be a citizen one would have to belong to said church. Jefferson noted that would be not be the case because of the separation. That singular line was distorted into the insanity we see today. It never meant that a Christian can't run for office, it never meant that a Christian in office can't pray about the issues in his office, and it for sure never meant that a Christian has to "turn off his faith" while holding an elected position.

btw I agree that, and even said so in the beginning, that Romney was a bad choice. I only mentioned Huckabee because, as I said earlier, he's the only one who's hit my personal voting criteria.

John Server:
Politics and Legislation ( )

Immediate Right side, Search (Not all results are Topic Title only, so may appear in main article or perhaps even comments):


Results: 1 page, 14 articles.


Results: 3 pages, 23 articles.

Clinton (to see any difference between Hillary alone and Clinton alone)

Results: 3 pages, 30 articles

You lose.

Naturally, this only includes the WordPress version of GamePolitics back to August of last year. Are you willing to stretch it even further to the old LiveJournal GamePolitics?

As to waterboarding, we all have different opinions and different reasons for those opinions. I could be as limited as you and declare supporters, such as yourself, of waterboarding to be admitted abusers and should be considered violently dangerous to themselves, their family, and others in society around them since such an individual that is so accepting of the use of abuse and torture would probably commit the very act of violence against others for ANY reason.

However, I am an intelligent person and know better than to make such ignorant statements.

Yes, I'm against it. Simply because it is outright stupid and ignorant to declare such acts used by terrorists and others to be atrocities and then turn around and use those very same or similar practices ourselves.

But what do you expect from governments... or Humans

NW2K Software
Nightwng2000 NW2K Software Nightwng2000 is now admin to the group "Parents For Education, Not Legislation" on MySpace as

I'm kind of ambivalent about this, in the bigger scheme of things (a presidential candidates debate) Video Games are pretty trivial, so certainly Romney chould be attacked for lying about them mattering, & the question coming up would out anyone who says anything less than "We've more important things to talk about." but I'm happy that their relevance to the debate was expressed in them not appearing here.

Vote Ron Paul 2008.

And here comes the impending lawsuit from Jack. Thanks, F'ed Up.

I've seen that argument before, Benji.

I fail to see how bearing children is a service to anything. Considering the ridiculous overpopulation of our species and its effect on our environment and natural resources, you'd think we'd be looking for excuses to tone down our breeding habits.

Really, anyone who's worried that we might not be making enough babies... well, allow me to dissuade their fears. :)

This conversation is getting off-topic, though.

@John Server

"Waterboarding is a good thing."

I stopped reading right about there. You are pro-torture and yet you want to bitch about Dennis' ethics? Sorry, no, fail.

Do any of you actually know what waterboarding is?

It is when you are held down and a damp towel or cloth is placed on your nose and mouth and water is dumped on the towel so that you start breathing in the water. You are drowning but it is usually stopped before you die.

You want your government to have the right to do this? Are you nuts?

Honestly if he really wants to rant about religion take it to my blog. A lot of is about religion and it would save Dennis some trouble with the off topic comments.

BTW I apologize for my own forrays into that realm. I do tend to get a tad carried away at times and I'm sorry if that's ever made things more difficult for you Dennis.

Waisting away energy again pandralisk? Posters here that have stated that they are atheist have asked you to quit.

What is the real reason you post here? I see no real point in you having to bring religion in to this particular topic.
Criticism is one thing, but what you're doing is trying to beat it with an aluminum bat.

If you really thing, and i mean REALLY think, religion is the problem, what are YOU doing to "correct" it?

i think it was the best watching romney stumble over the issue of the Holy Bible

he is a mormon

not a christan

@ Pandralisk

"True, I will continue critiquing religious hate and superstition when it lies at the heart of censorship attempts in this industry. A combination of truth, honesty, unbiased critique, and consistent logic will never stop me from refuting the lies of an internally contradictory religious system that is being used to stomp our a great deal of freedom and rights in this country."

Fine, have it your way. Oh, and have fun getting banned for ignoring Dennis' warning to stop these off topic rants.

Come on America can we get the word on National TV with a politician on our side saying games are good, something please, anything really I mean the politicians are just dancing around the subject.

Haha, who needs to dance around games when both parties can offer it is a sacrifical topic to religious nutcase voters, without anyone giving a damn or lifting a finger?


It's not that they're dancing around the subject, they're just too busy doing the chicken dance for the misguided 'Do it for the children' crowd.


Yet another reason this country needs a governmental enema.

@WarOtter: I can't help but wonder if such a thing might happen sometime in the very near future. A lot of people hate Hillary and Romney, and if they end up being the two major party candidates I'd expect a third party candidate to be able to make a strong showing. Even if he doesn't quite win, such a strong showing would potentially smash the concept that a third-party candidate can never win, which has always been an oft-cited reason why people don't vote third party.


Pretty much. But sacrificing games is also for the "OH MY GOD, EVIL SINFUL VIDEO GAMES ARE INJECTING SATAN INTO SOCIETY AND DESTROYING THE FAMILY. FICTIONAL DEPICTION OF VIOLENCE AND SEX = SIN. SIN = DESTROYED" crowd. Most of these canidates have taken a firm stance on the issue: they oppose games on both moral grounds [and encourage forms of censorship] and for teh Childrenziz!

I think it was a good choice for a question. Gaming is not my only priority, and I am glad to see another good issue raised. I would have probably been angry if it HAD been gaming, it is very easy for a politician to have an opinion on that without damaging his credibility in other areas.

For instance, I previously had no thoughts on Romney before, now that I have some information I can work with, I think he would be an awful president. I don't even want him in a Govenor's position. I think I might be OK with a local Council, or maybe head of Political Dead-end position.

I never really supported Romney as a Presidential candidate and no there is not a snow ball's chance in hell that I would support him. His stance on the War and torture really makes him out to be a dictator wannabe.

I am glad to McCain stand up to him and throw his argument back in his face.

I am going to have to look more into McCain, but right now, Obama is still my top choice.

Don't you people know anything? Torture is indeed illegal, and against moral freedom everywhere, but what they're doing in Iraq isn't torture. It's just "enhanced interrogation", and last time I checked, enhanced interrogation doesn't break any laws...

Does anyone even care about Romney? Isn't he like in dead last, now that Stephen Colbert is off the ballot?

Can't say i'm suprised. Issues like Iraq, terrorizm, Immigration ((For me especially)), and other such items take precedance over games. That being said, Romney and MC cain already lost my support for there various stances on items. Romney cause he just seems like a indecicive prick, Mc Cain for his spear heading of the Ammnesty bill. Oh, I'm sorry, Immigration reform bill. Please.

Hillary is no better, and obama lacks the experiance I think a president needs. On the other hand, theres damn few alternatives on either side really. Makes me sad that this is what we have to chose from in next years election.

I've never supported Romney and after his condescending excahnge with McCain I can honestly say that I never will. McCain has some good ideas, don't agree with all of them, but he has some good one. About the only candidate I would honestly vote for today is Huckabee. He's pretty much the nail on the head for my top criteria.

Is thinking that torture is unnecessary and rare in our country extremely naive? I believe so.

Would I want to be tortured? No. Would anyone want to be tortured? No.

If I were captured by terrorists would I be tortured? Yes (and then decapitated).

Is torturing known terrorists in order to gain information that could save the lives of my countrymen and women bad? I don't think so.

If I were tortured to gain information about an attack I knew about that would kill people in another country, would I like it? No. But I'd understand why they're doing it.

I liked the Senator's response. He basically said, "I refuse to show the terrorists our hand. If we tell the world that if a terrorist is captured, we will give him a stern talking to, what is to discourage them from continuing to plot our demise?"

Torture continues without our knowledge, and will continue no matter who is in office. The only difference is who is willing to outright lie to the public to protect their image.

@ E. Zach

Be careful of McCain and the rest of the GoP for that matter. They all stand against social freedom, economic fariness, scientific advancment, and peaceful foriegn policy.

McCain has said, quite explicitly at a pro-Israel convention hosted by Jerry Farwell, that he believes the book of Revelations should serve as an inspiration and justification of contemporary foriegn policy. I question the sanity of a man who would make such a claim.


You really think Huckabee hits the nail on the head for your top criteria? What criteria do you refer to? Are you aware of Huckabee's stances on the issues?

Huckabee stands against working people by supporting a disgusting economic structure that is channeling more American money upwards than any point in recent history. Huckabee stands against the rights of the American people to live equally and happily under matrimony and common law marriage. Huckabee stands for enforcing personal moral values and religious norms on a free nation. Huckabee supports internationally illegal warfare and using lies to justify war as a measure of national policy. Huckabee stands against healthcare for the American people to ensure that his corporatized donors can continue to exploit the suffering of honest people for profit. Huckabee stands against the protection of our environment and advancement of the sciences. His superstitious value system, founded upon ambiguous religious principles derived from Bronze Age superstition, refutes basic ethical obligations founded upon the principle of autonomy. Huckabee stands for the barbaric implementation of the death penalty, a relic of retributive justice that has absolutely no moral or preventative value. Huckabee stands for torture and misleading the American people into believing artificially inflated terror threats. Huckabee is also rabidly anti-woman. He thinks women should return to their Biblically defined roles as nothing but wives and mothers. He believes life begins at conception, which means he's not just desirous of banning abortion but hormonal birth control and the IUD, along with comprehensive sex education since men MUST have virgin brides. this the kind of person you want leading a society that is supposedly the foundation of democratic freedom in the free world?

Games are a back pocket topic for politicians. They'll pull it out when they need to make a press release or jump on the newest games-related bandwagon to appear 'in the know.'

Lone Gunmen be damned!

@ Skylar

Our refusal and acknowledgment of torture as an immoral and disgusting practice is precisely what makes American better than tyrannical nations. How can we denounce torture internationally as a terrible practice, but at the same time defend the use of torture within our own territories?

Romney offered a response to the cowards in this country who are so disillusioned by the threat of international terrorism that they would be willing to sacrafice one of America's greatest moral positions. Myself and thousands of Americans would rather die in a terrorist attack than see the country we love contradict itself by torturing a human being. Those who denounce torture, in all cases except national security, are both cowardly and inconsistent.

for once Pandralisk has a point (without being insulting, good job).

Huckabee is pretty much against everyone who isn't a W.A.S.P. which includes "the gays." The only thing Huckabee is good for is supporting Net Neutrality.

handy candidate-issue guide:

nevermind about the good job. i guess i'm so used to seeing your insults, Pandralisk, that i glazed over them.

Hey Dennis, maybe as part of the full disclosure department you should start saying that you hate Romney before any article in which you speak about him. It seems that whether or not a topic has to do with games or not, Romney is a jerk according to you.

I don't condone torture but at the same time presenting to the world the techniques which can and can't be used for solely political points seems to be a risk to our national security. I'm willing to bet that some of the techniques which we use in the army field manual would be seen by a lot of people as torture but McCain is okay with those. But tipping our hand to the things people may or may not be subject to greatly diminishes the effctiveness of the things we can do.

@Conejo: I didn't find him insulting this time around so much as... very impassioned. What he said was basically every conservative platform plank, described in as unflattering terms as possible.
The irony being that, by railing against the commonly held beliefs of the right in such a zealous manner he comes off as no more reasonable and no more tolerant than those he speaks out against.

@ Pandralisk

1. I am an evangelical Christian, as Huckabee is. I also believe life begins at conception. This does not make me superstitious or anti-woman.

2. I also believe in Biblical Creation. This does not make me anti-science, nor does it make it me an idiot.

3. I, again like Huckabee, don't believe in same sex marriage. Whether or not the Federal Government needs to get involved is another matter entirely.

4. I also support capital punishment. If nothing else it deters that one person from ever hurting anyone ever again.

5. I do believe that the Earth is getting warmer, however whether or not man is responsible is in question to me. Looking back every 30-50 years a pattern emerges of global warming and cooling. Believing this does not make me anti-enviroment.

All that being said I'm also on record here for supporting free speach, even the speach I tend to disagree with. I'll do my own research on other matters, but I think you'll forgive me if I don't take your, admittedly biased, view on Huckabee as gospel.

Nothing Pandralisk says is intelligent and very little right.

The Republican party, unlike, the democrat party, is the party that wants to give freedom and responsibility back to the individual.

Oh god I had a horrible dream last night, somehow Romney won the republican nomination and Hillary the democrat.

@ Broken Scope

I think that is the nightmare of many a voter. Myself included. :(

Zombie Apocalypse, the only way to save America.


It’s just “enhanced interrogation”, and last time I checked, enhanced interrogation doesn’t break any laws…

Oh, ow, my sides hurt, I'm laughing so hard... the pain.

Just so you know, the US government officially considers waterboarding... "enhanced interrogation"...

And what McCain was talking about was the stuff going on at Guantanamo and the secret CIA prisons. Not Iraq. That was too public a venue, they let the Iraqi police torture prisoners now instead... oops, sorry, I mean they let the Iraqi police "interrogate" the prisoners using "enhanced" techniques...

Three Kings anyone?
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

"Myself and thousands of Americans would rather die in a terrorist attack than see the country we love contradict itself by torturing a human being."

I would prefer to see one hateful person or criminal go through severe discomfort to protect you and thousands of other innocent Americans.

Can I get an E-Mail Address for this Romney bastard? I've seen what torture does to people, and i'd personally like to stick this to the shithead. Come on Dennis, you know the fucker deserves at the very least a bollocking for that.

Austin Lewis Says:

November 29th, 2007 at 11:10 am
Nothing Pandralisk says is intelligent and very little right.

The Republican party, unlike, the democrat party, is the party that wants to give freedom and responsibility back to the individual.

Yeah, really. Sorry mate, that is the worst lie i've heard in a long time.

For all his trolling about religion, which I do not in the slightest agree with, Pandralisk hits the nail on the head when he talks about Conservatives.

More on topic

The whole world of intelligence and espionage is so damn fucked up. Its never as black and white as we wish, torture is bad, but then we run into the issue of defining torture. another massively gray area with some minor black and white fringe.

Is torture causing pain, or is waking someone up every hour and asking for information torture? is leaving them in a dark cell? Is yelling at them torture? Is giving them food that their religion forbids them to eat torture? What about giving them food that is harmless and nutritious, but has an additive that tastes horrible and lingers for hours on end? Is something purely psychological torture?

Its one more issue that just can't seemed to be talked about because everyone wants a black white answer.

I'm not a big Nietzsche fan, but there's an old statement about fighting monsters and becoming them....

When one fights monsters, one should be careful lest he himself becomes a monster.

Theres a few different phrasings but they all give the same general idea.

Another topical quote

When you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes back at you.

"I am an evangelical Christian, as Huckabee is. I also believe life begins at conception. This does not make me superstitious or anti-woman."

No, it doesn't. But the use of this belief to legislate anti-abortion laws does make Huckabee anti-woman.

"I also believe in Biblical Creation. This does not make me anti-science, nor does it make it me an idiot."

Anti-science? Yes. Idiot? Probably not. But anyone who votes because of religious alignment is certainly missing the point of separation of Church and State.


Perhaps you missed the point where Romney compares video games to a "Cultural Cesspool" (Fake violence is bad), but declines to out a listed form of torture (Real violence = not bad). And, yes, you or I would probably think the Army field manual is toturous, but the Geneva Convention disagrees with us there.

I understand your point that Romney doesn't want to marginalize our interrogation abilities by pin-point scrutiny. But, he simply could have taken the, "I will let the experts handle what is toture and what isn't," line instead of choking on the question. (Much how he choked on the Bible question).

~~All Knowledge is Worth Having~~

I just read the Update on Hal's point of view on the debate. Many people already know the possitions of candidates on top issues. There are times when opposing candidates' points of view are very similar and it comes down to the secondary issues that can be the tipping point.

Video games are certainly a secondary position. Federal Budgets, the Dollar, the War in Iraq, Healthcare etc. These are very important issues, but they are discussed so frequently that some people can just glaze over them when reading about politics. But when a candidate speaks out about something different it can get people's attention and change their mind about that candidate.

That is why I am so impressed with Obama. He is the only candidate that is speaking out about technological issues. He has made a stance when all other candidates are ignoring it.

I really hate political polls, because they represent a really narrow demographic of older voters. If these polls took the opinion of younger people, the polls would really show a different story.

Will those talking about "freedom" please tell me which candidate from either party is offering MORE freedom instead of less, and specifically what is that freedom?

It seems to me that both parties have their hands in my pockets, their just looking to steal different things.

These people’s jobs are for the most part to create law, which for the most part is the restriction of liberty. Some laws are essential, don't steal, don't rape and murder. Some are bullshit, no spanking, no using transfat, no smoking. When all the candidates are proposing more of the latter I think our choices are pitiable.

One name - Ron Paul
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