THE CULTURE OF LIFE….Rosa Brooks writes that the Republican Party has a new litmus test:

Not too long ago, judicial nominees and political candidates could expect to be grilled on abortion. As the Republican leadership became dominated by right-wing evangelicals, staunch opposition to abortion became a precondition for those seeking support from GOP insiders. Soon, abortion was a litmus test for both parties.

….Today, though, the GOP’s interest in abortion appears greatly diminished. When President Bush nominated Michael B. Mukasey as attorney general, no one seemed clear about Mukasey’s views on abortion — and no one in the GOP seemed to care very much either.

These days, you can forget that old-style GOP rhetoric about “values,” “human dignity” and the “culture of life.” Because the GOP has a new litmus test for its nominees: Will you or will you not protect U.S. officials who order the torture of prisoners?

The trajectory of this debate has been depressing beyond words. As recently as a year or two ago, conservatives seemed at least occasionally defensive about the whole thing, mostly limiting their defense of torture to ticking time bomb scenarios and the like. It wasn’t pretty, but it was at least a tacit admission that torture was shameful enough to be considered only in extremis.

But no more. The party that used to take Darkness at Noon as practically an ur-text about the evils of communism is now home to a snarling pack of presidential candidates who fall all over themselves to defend torture and abusive interrogation as a routine practice. How did we get here?

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