Ensign: Pelosi Trying to be ‘Politically Popular’ on Torture

May 14, 2009 2:01pm

ABC News’ Rick Klein reports: On ABCNews.com’s “Top Line” today, we spoke with a top member of Senate Republican leadership — who’s also a possible 2012 presidential contender — about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s claim that CIA officials misled her in briefings.

Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., responded that it’s Pelosi herself whose truthfulness should be questioned:

“Nancy Pelosi never raised concerns that even the possibility of waterboarding or any of these enhanced interrogation techniques would be used in the future,” said Ensign, the chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee.

“She never raised concerns — others did. People like John McCain have been raising concerns for a long time about some of the enhanced interrogation techniques. She never did until just recently, when she thought it was politically popular.”

“I think that there is a question of veracity of her comments today, and if you look at her body language she certainly didn’t look comfortable in what she was saying,” Ensign added.

Ensign said he’s convinced that the Bush administration’s special interrogation tactics “saved American lives.”

“We averted several of these terrorist activities that could have cost thousands of American lives,” he said, “and that’s part of what others have called for, like myself, who’ve said, if you’re going to release the classified information about what we did as far as the interrogation techniques, at least release the information on the good things that it stopped. You know, just to release one side seems political and patently unfair.”

On another topic, Ensign was skeptical about talk of possible compromise that would put in place a “public option” in part of a healthcare reform package.

“When you go down the line, even a compromise type of a public plan, you still have bureaucrats making health care decisions and that ends up to delaying care, and as I mentioned before, when you delay care, that’s care denied,” he said.

He also joked about his forthcoming trip to Iowa — a trip that has stoked speculation about a presidential run in Ensign’s future. His June 1 visit will include a speech in Sioux City, a visit to a genetics company, and also a visit to the Wells Blue Bunny Ice Cream Parlor in Le Mars.

“First of all, I love ice cream — but I’m also going to basically a veterinary facility,” said Ensign, who a veterinarian by training.

“You know, people said, hey, why don’t you go here or go there and I said, fine.  I’m there for a couple extra hours, because you’re stuck. You know, you can only take — there’s only so many flights out of Iowa and so you have to wait around, so they just filled up my schedule.”

“I was asked by a group to go to Iowa and to give a speech, and we don’t have the White House any more, so we need a lot of effective speakers to go around talking about the ideas that we have on healthcare, on energy, on getting more American energy and becoming less dependent on foreign sources of energy,” he said.

Watch the full interview with Sen. Ensign HERE.

We also chatted with Sam Youngman of The Hill about the Pelosi news, President Obama’s commencement addresses, and the new Robert Gibbs cellphone policy in the White House press briefing room.

Watch the video with Sam Youngman HERE.

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