As political scientist Jonathan Bernstein notes, we are in a sad place now that Bush has openly endorsed and defended torture. Of course, for Bush and his defenders, all the torture is focused on KSM, and not on those who weren't actually 9-11 designers, and in many instances, were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
But Bernstein is actually addressing the GOP and suggests that it is hard to imagine a Republican nominee in 2012 who isn't a torture defender. I will take that further and make this prediction: the GOP nominee will openly defend torture, openly denounce evolution, openly dismiss climate change as a policy issue, openly call for more off-shore drilling, and will openly denounce any and all tax increases.
I could be wrong. I hope I am, actually, for the sake of the country. But I would be willing to put some money down on this.
The fact is that Bush's statement didn't even phase Republicans. They were more angered by Paul McCartney's joke about it being nice to have a President who knows what a "library is," than they were that their Christian President who said that Jesus was his favorite political philosophizer openly admitted to the public that he had authorized a torture technique that we have actually prosecuted in this country as a crime. Discussions with one of my evangelical friends leads me to believe that for many of them, torture in the abstract is wrong (and often associated with what happened to Jesus himself), but when it is focussed on some evil terrorist, those same evangelicals simply look away. As he said, they simply find it hard to have compassion for a terrorist.
There is a big part of your GOP base, after all, who heard Bush admit to torture and just simply looked away. The rest of the base is made up of people who have no problem with torture as an extension of power and exceptionalism. For them, this is a no-brainer. And then there are the principled actual "small government conservatives" who recognize that torture is the outcome of the government power power they fear. Unfortunately, for the GOP, those principled conservatives are relatively rare.
Instead, you have an awful lot of people who think that God is on our side so what we do is, by definition, ok when it is done to evil brown-skinned terrorists. And that is how you will get an open torture defender as GOP candidate in two years.