Rasmussen: 58% prefer the Cheney option on EunuchBomber

posted at 1:14 pm on December 31, 2009 by Ed Morrissey

I just call it the Cheney Option because it recalls a time when we treated terrorists as unlawful combatants rather than defendants.  Apparently, a healthy majority of Americans agree with that approach.  Rasmussen surveyed likely voters about how they would like to see Umar Abdulmutallab interrogated, and 58% said bring on the drips:

Fifty-eight percent (58%) of U.S. voters say waterboarding and other aggressive interrogation techniques should be used to gain information from the terrorist who attempted to bomb an airliner on Christmas Day.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 30% oppose the use of such techniques, and another 12% are not sure.

Men and younger voters are more strongly supportive of the aggressive interrogation techniques than women and those who are older. Republicans and voters not affiliated with either major party favor their use more than Democrats.

Seventy-one percent (71%) of all voters think the attempt by the Nigerian Muslim to blow up the airliner as it landed in Detroit should be investigated by military authorities as a terrorist act. Only 22% say it should be handled by civilian authorities as a criminal act, as is currently the case.

Let’s look inside the numbers, where the responses get very, very interesting.  Rasmussen’s analysis says men are more likely than women to break out the waterboard, but a majority of women (54%) favor its use on Abdulmutallab, too.  Older voters may be less likely to approve of its use, but it still wins a plurality among 50-64 year olds (49%) and senior citizens (48%), outstripping opposition by double digits in both cases.  Democrats give waterboarding a thin plurality (43/41), while 60% of independents favor its use.  A majority of self-described moderates (51%) favor it as well.

So far, the response to using the criminal system is almost uniformly negative, with 71% saying that the military should be handling the issue.  Women are more likely than men (75/66) to have that reaction.  Among age demographics, the lowest percentage agreeing was 67% among the 50-64 demo.  Sixty percent of Democrats want it handled by the military, with only 30% agreeing with the Obama administration.  Even 50% of self-described liberals want the military handling Abdulmutallab, not the FBI.  Only among the political class does Obama gain majority support, 60/33 in favor of civilian handling of the terrorist.

In this case, though, I do find myself at least acknowledging that the FBI is a legitimate choice.  After all, the terrorist was detained in the US, and his actions took place in American airspace.  I’d prefer that the military handle it, but a case can be made for civilian processes.  As far as the waterboard is concerned, I’d prefer other methods get used.  I doubt that the EunuchBomber has much information on other plots, unlike a Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or Ramzi Binalshibh.  However, he shouldn’t be allowed to lawyer up before we have a chance to find out.

What this poll shows is that the American public has awakened once again to the terrorist threat — and that the Obama administration is badly out of step with voters on security issues.


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