We interviewed Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) on The Young Turks yesterday. He was attending the Take Back America conference where we are broadcasting from these last couple of days. We had a chance to pose the question we have been waiting a long time to ask him: Why did he vote for the Military Commissions Act?
That was the hideous bill passed right before the 2006 election that allowed the president to define torture (meaning the president would simply make torture legal), took away habeas corpus rights from detainees, made prosecuting war criminals nearly impossible, among many other hideous provisions. It was the worst piece of legislation I have ever seen in my lifetime. I wasn't the only one who thought so, so did The New York Times.
At the time Sherrod Brown was a Democratic Congressman from Ohio running for Senate against Mike DeWine. He was an otherwise progressive candidate. That's part of what made his vote so stunning. It seemed to be crass political calculation.
We finally got a chance to ask the Senator why he did it yesterday. He pretty much admitted that it was a political calculation. But he did take complete responsibility and said he would do everything he could to undo that vote.
Cenk Uygur: Thanks for joining us Senator. We appreciate it. I gotta start off with the question we've had now for over six months, I gotta ask you, why did you vote for the Military Commissions Act?
Senator Brown: It was a bad vote. I shouldn't have.
Cenk Uygur: Oh, wow. Okay.
Senator Brown: A vote I'll correct ... when it comes.
Cenk Uygur: So, you regret that?
Senator Brown: I take responsibility. It was the heat of the campaign and I made a mistake.
Cenk Uygur: So, if it comes again you're going to change the vote?
Senator Brown: You bet.
You can watch the whole interview here.
As others have noted, it is far harder to undo the vote than it was to vote for it in the first place. Now you need 67 senators to override a certain Bush veto. It seems like a tough thing to let people slide on by simply admitting the error. That being said, we have to start the hard, long way back somewhere. And it is imperative that at least the Democrats who voted for it admit it was a mistake and try to make up for it.
This is not nearly enough. The Military Commissions Act is still the law of the land. But I hope the road to correcting this gross injustice against the principles of America starts here. And for what it's worth, Senator Brown has begun to take steps in that direction.