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CPAC: The Cruelty Political Action Conference

04/21/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I have been on the progressive side of the aisle virtually my whole life (being around a lot of Republicans in Nebraska, I did flirt with being a Republican when I was eight years old, but fortunately my older brother and sister talked me out of that quickly), but I have always believed that conservatives in American history had an honorable tradition in part. Yes, they have the pro-slavery, anti-women's suffrage, and Great Depression inducing Republicans in their midst, but they also had honorable patriots like John Adams and Everett Dirksen. Modern-day conservatives, however, have decided to throw the honorable part of conservatism under the bus along with every other sentiment that might get in their way.

The pro-torture crowd has taken over modern conservatism. People at the CPAC convention are firing themselves up with cries of "waterboard them" and cheering wildly as speakers advocated locking political prisoners away forever at Gitmo. Republicans are embracing a movement that trafficks in secessionism, birtherism, and making threats about armed revolt.

While there has always been a crazy streak in the conservative movement- the John Birch Society founder used to call Dwight Eisenhower a communist agent- the most wild extremists have never taken over the movement lock, stock and barrel before. Today they are thoroughly in control.

Here's what I find so puzzling. Let me throw out some random quotes for you, and you tell me which socialist tract they came from:

"Love mercy, show kindness, and walk humbly with your God"

"I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you made me welcome, lacking clothes and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me... in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me"

"He has filled the starving poor with good things, and sent the rich away empty"

"The spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives, sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim a year of favour [when the poor would be forgiven their debts] from the Lord"

Okay, you probably guessed it: the socialist tract of which I speak is what is otherwise known as the Christian Bible. I've looked all through it for passages about how you should torture people, and perpetuate cruelty, but I couldn't seem to find them.

Jesus didn't talk about torturing people, he talked about helping the poor. George Washington forbade the use of torture even in the darkest days of the American Revolution when the British were doing it to our troops. Jesus and Washington seem to be the two people conservatives claim as their greatest heroes. Can you explain this to us, guys? The answer to "What Would Jesus Do" is definitely not torture.

I respect a conservatism that worries about the unintended consequences of change, and gets uncomfortable when government gets bigger or deficits get higher. A conservatism that exults in waterboarding, in torture used by the Inquisition and the Japanese in World War II? There is no honor in that. There is no justification for it. The conservative movement has been taken over by the pro-cruelty faction, and is on a dark, dark path.