82° Good Afternoon
82° Good Afternoon

McKinstry: Greg Ball's torture tweet a glimpse of his brash act

CNN host Piers Morgan, left, and New York

CNN host Piers Morgan, left, and New York State Sen. Greg Ball engaged in a Twitter war Monday after Ball appeared on Morgan's show to defend his advocacy of torturing Dzhokhar Tsarnev, the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings. Credit: Getty Images / Newsday

State Sen. Greg Ball has dug in his cowboy boots and is defending his belief that  the use of torture on the Boston bombing suspect would be justifiable — the suspect he called "scumbag number 2" in a tweet sent to his more than 5,000 followers.

It's the tweet that set off this latest Ballapalooza.

"Who wouldn't use torture on this punk to save lives," he wrote, later strongly defending his views with a series of interviews on CNN and Fox News Channel. Ball, a Republican from Putnam County, even said he'd use a baseball bat on suspected terrorists if given the chance.

Few would argue against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev being interrogated and brought to justice. But torturing the 19-year-old wouldn't be all that productive, I suspect. Not when he's barely hanging on in a hospital bed because of his injuries and can't even speak. And Ball's suggestion raises all sorts of constitutional issues involving cruel and unusual punishment.

The 35-year-old state senator should know better: Ball, elected to the Senate in 2010 after serving three years in the Assembly, chairs the Senate's Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee.

Nonetheless, Ball says torture is justified in the war on terror if it can save lives. That includes those arrested in this country and abroad. The Boston bombing should be a wake-up call that this country needs new rules, Ball says.

But Ball was on fire during the "extraordinary interview," as CNN host Piers Morgan put it, when the two sparred on live television Monday night before the British host asked if Ball could stop "being such a jerk."

The short answer is, of course, no. He can't. It's part of his Ball brand: Outspoken, condescending and railing against those he doesn't agree with. He’s calculating, an opportunist who seeks a headline or television appearance whenever he can.

His approach, demeanor and political style are what gets him re-elected. Despite some negative reaction, I doubt he's lost any supporters in this latest episode.

Ball speaks like some straight-talking fellas sitting on the bar stool — complete with expletives. He's is a master of political theater. He portrays himself as a "red-blooded American" who operates outside of the political establishment.

His supporters love his brashness. Responding to the CNN interview, Ball's public relations staffer put out a statement Tuesday calling Morgan a "snake." On Sean Hannity’s show Monday night on Fox, Ball called Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, a "complete idiot" on gun control. In the past, he's tweeted that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is "a fool on the Second Amendment," and he's called Assemb. Tom Abinanti, a Democrat from Greenburgh, a "liberal turd."

It's part of his shtick.

For those of us who have followed Ball, it's not so jaw-dropping. We've heard this sort of stuff before. It's Greg Ball being Greg Ball, not worth getting too upset about or losing any sleep over.

"If I didn't know that Greg Ball was such a self-serving loser, I'd be liking him now," Robin Murphy of Chappaqua, a former Ball backer, wrote on Facebook.

During the recent cable interviews, the state senator said too many politicians don't speak their minds. They are, in fact, "full of crap," he said.

We agree on that. Although the same has been said of Ball.