It seems that Scott Brown’s election has had a liberating effect on Democratic senators. Perhaps it was Brown’s stirring call to spend money on defense and not on lawyers for terrorists. Or maybe it’s the growing awareness that Obama is not politically invincible, perhaps not even viable. It might be that they’re listening to the voters a little more carefully and are somewhat more attuned to polls that show little patience for Obama’s policy of approaching terrorism as ordinary crime-fighting.
What Democratic lawmakers were willing to mutely accept or spin on behalf of their president, they now are beginning to criticize. The Wall Street Journal editors observe:
In a letter to President Obama this week, Democrats Blanche Lincoln and Jim Webb, Republicans Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Susan Collins, and Independent Democrat Joe Lieberman wrote that “The attacks of 9/11 were acts of war, and those who planned and carried out those attacks are war criminals.”
The six Senators “strongly” urged the White House to reconsider its decision to prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other terrorists in New York federal district court, which they argued is “without precedent in our nation’s history.”
And then there was the decision — made without reflection or input from intelligence officials — to treat the Christmas Day bomber as a common criminal defendant. This was initially the subject of criticism only from the Right. No more:
Earlier this week Mr. Lieberman and Mrs. Collins also wrote that the decision to treat Abdulmutallab as a common criminal “almost certainly prevented the military and the intelligence community from obtaining information that would have been critical to learning more about how our enemy operates and to preventing future attacks.”
There’s much to be done by Congress. As the editors note: “the Members can pass a law that strips the federal courts of jurisdiction over such unlawful enemy combatants as Abdulmutallab and KSM.” It gets a bit dicey, of course, because a federal court already has jurisdiction over Abdulmutallab. A smart lawyer experienced in these cases tells me: “What they have done by indicting him, however, is injected a huge wild card into the process — a federal judge. The judge could very easily get in the way. We’ve shifted people from enemy combatant status to criminal status before, but don’t recall doing it the other way.”
That’s not to say the obstacles can’t be overcome and the effort should not be made. They should. It’s important to have the public debate and see whether we have a broad-based consensus in this country that Obama’s knee-jerk rejection to Bush-era anti-terrorism policies was foolhardy, that a military tribunal is an appropriate forum for handling al-Qaeda-supported or -trained terrorists (without regard to where they are apprehended), and that high-value detainees should be interrogated minus the Miranda warnings by trained intelligence personnel with all the available data to elicit the maximum amount of intelligence information. There is nothing contrary to our “values” or our legal precedents in any of this. It’s the Obami and their Justice Department lefty lawyers who are out of step with both. In the wake of the Massachusetts epic upset, Democratic lawmakers are starting to come to their senses. That’s a very good thing for the country and might spare a few of them Martha Coakely’s fate.