Palin: ‘Waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists’

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Sarah Palin speaks at CPAC in National Harbor, Maryland, March 8, 2014.
Sarah Palin speaks at CPAC in National Harbor, Maryland, March 8, 2014.
Ron Sachs/AP
It’s generally best to ignore the assorted nonsense from the former half-term governor of Alaska, but once in a great while, some of Sarah Palin’s rhetoric is tough to overlook.
 
Take, for example, her remarks over the weekend to the National Rifle Association.
Palin also took a hawkish approach to national security, saying that current counter-terrorism efforts “coddle adversaries.”
 
“Come on. Enemies, who would utterly annihilate America, they who’d obviously have information on plots, to carry out Jihad. Oh, but you can’t offend them, can’t make them feel uncomfortable, not even a smidgen,” Palin said.
 
“Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we’d baptize terrorists.”
Remember, not quite six year ago, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who knows a little something about torture, told the nation that Palin should be one heartbeat from the presidency.
 
Let’s put aside, at least for now, that the underlying complaint is ridiculous on its face: the Obama administration’s counter-terrorism campaign has been extremely aggressive, making U.S. enemies feel plenty “uncomfortable” (more than “a smidgen”).
 
Instead, let’s focus on the degree to which Palin’s painfully ridiculous rhetoric was offensive.
 
To be sure, arguing in defense of torture – in effect, speaking out in support of war crimes – is indefensible. But in her NRA speech, Palin went further, equating torture with baptisms.
 
Theologians can speak to this with far greater authority than I can, but in the Christian tradition baptisms aren’t just ceremonial gestures. Rather, as conservative Rod Dreher explained, baptisms are “a holy sacrament of the Christian faith.” Dreher added that for Palin to draw a parallel between waterboarding and baptisms is “disgusting” and “sacrilegious.”
 
Put it this way: if a prominent atheist equated torture and baptisms, I suspect many conservatives – maybe even some Palin allies – would characterize it as evidence of anti-Christian animus and a hostility for religion in general. What’s more, they’d have a legitimate point.
 
With this in mind, what in the world is Palin talking about? And why did the assembled NRA crowd find this worthy of cheers and applause?
 

NRA, Sarah Palin and Torture

Palin: 'Waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists'

Updated