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The Idiot Liberals

The Idiot Liberals

Wednesday, June 06, 2007 7:15 PM

James Taranto

The Liberal Suicide Pact
It seems we weren’t the only one to notice that the New York Times buried news of a foiled terror plot against John F. Kennedy International Airport on page 37. A pair of Times readers submitted questions about this to Suzanne Daley, the paper’s national editor, who is doing a “Talk to the Newsroom” question-and-answer series this week. Here is Daley’s explanation:

Here’s the basic thinking on the J.F.K. story: In the years since 9/11, there have been quite a few interrupted terrorist plots. It now seems possible to exercise some judgment about their gravity. Not all plots are the same. In this case, law enforcement officials said that J.F.K. was never in immediate danger. The plotters had yet to lay out plans. They had no financing. Nor did they have any explosives. It is with all that in mind, that the editors in charge this weekend did not put this story on the front page.

In truth, the decision was widely debated even within this newsroom. At the front page meeting this morning, we took an informal poll and a few editors thought the story should have been more prominently played. Some argued it should have been fronted, regardless of the lameness of the plot, simply because it was what everyone was talking about.

Today, the Times has yet another editorial demanding that enemy combatants be afforded full rights under the U.S. Constitution:

Congress should shut down Guantánamo Bay, as called for in bills sponsored by two California Democrats, Representative Jane Harman in the House and Senator Dianne Feinstein in the Senate. Both lawmakers are intimately familiar with the camp and have concluded it is beyond salvaging.

Their bill would close Gitmo in a year and the detainees would be screened by real courts. Those who are truly illegal combatants would be sent to military or civilian jails in the United States, to be tried under time-tested American rules of justice, or sent to an international tribunal. Some would be returned to their native lands for trial, if warranted. The rest would be set free, as they should have been long ago.

The Guantánamo camp was created on a myth–that the American judicial system could not handle prisoners of “the war against terror.”

The attitudes expressed by Daley and the Times editorial board are quite typical of elite liberal thought. They share a premise that the threat of terrorism has been greatly exaggerated. But on closer analysis, there is a contradiction, one that reveals why liberal thinking on terrorism is dangerous not only to American national security but also, in the long run, to liberal ideals.

Every time law-enforcement authorities announce that they have stopped a terror plan, we hear Daley-like pooh-poohing from the left: The plot wasn’t really that serious, it was nowhere near being carried out, the suspects were just a bunch of losers, that sort of thing. (The battier Bush-haters add that the announcement is a publicity stunt to stoke public fear or serve some political purpose.)

If this is true, then the Times’s blithe assurance that the criminal-justice system is sufficient for dealing with the terror threat is utterly fatuous, is it not?

Of course, newspaper editorialists don’t make policy, so their fatuity is cost-free. But the Times’s ideas are well within what passes for the mainstream of the Democratic Party. The Times carries a news story today titled “Democrats Hope to Expand Rights at Guantanamo.” They are unlikely to succeed as long as George W. Bush wields the veto pen, but if a Democrat is elected president next year, all bets are off.

John Edwards has endorsed the view, which the Times expressed with those scare quotes above, that the war on terror isn’t real. Barack Obama, in a CNN forum the other night, declared, “I believe Guantanamo, the decision to detain people without charges, is unjust”–never mind that under international law, even legitimate prisoners of war may be held without charge for the duration of hostilities.

If the Democrats hold their congressional majorities and one of them becomes president, then, it is quite possible that the Times’s view will prevail.

What the Times is proposing is that all terrorists in U.S. custody be freed unless prosecutors can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they have committed a specific crime–and in making their case, prosecutors would be bound by all the restrictions on admissibility of evidence that protect ordinary criminal defendants in the civilian courts.

What if the U.S. adopts such an approach and it turns out to be inimical to national security? What if, that is, President Clinton or President Obama or President Edwards signs the Harmon-Feinstein legislation, Guantanamo is emptied, and a few years later we see another 9/11 or worse?

Would the American people accept the idea that serial mass murder on our own soil is just the price we have to pay to preserve some abstract concept of liberty–that is, that the Constitution is a suicide pact after all? We doubt it.

It is much more likely that the political system would find it impossible to resist public demands for much harsher antiterror measures, probably involving genuine curtailments of civil liberties. There is no reason to think that liberal politicians would resist such demands. After all, Woodrow Wilson restricted free speech during World War I, and Franklin D. Roosevelt interned tens of thousands of American citizens during World War II, cheered on by then-Gov. Earl Warren of California. In both cases the Supreme Court ratified the president’s excesses.

By overreacting to imagined civil liberties threats today, American liberals may be setting the stage for future overreactions in the other direction. Guantanamo helps keep America free as well as safe.

Some of the world’s most prominent idiots are going to get us all killed.

June 10, 2007 - Posted by | Communists, Congress, Democrats, GOP, Jihadists, Politics, Socialists, Studies In Islam, Terrorists, Treason

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