September 6, 2006

Send lawyers guns and money, the old Warren Zevon song goes. Well, you can leave the guns at home, but the best ACLU lawyers money can buy, definitely – especially if you’re a suspected terrorist being held at Guantanamo Bay (a.k.a. “Club Gitmo”). While this will be the only highlight from the President’s very fine speech today sure to be trumpeted by the dino-media (you can already tell by the “secret CIA prisons exist!” headlines splashed across Al-Reuters and the AP), this was a speech deserving of more than a tired knee-jerk reaction by a headline-hungry press.

For this was a important speech – perhaps the most important of the President’s term: wide in scope, yet rich in detail and purpose, and one that will be talked about for days, if not weeks, to come.

Having heard the speech almost in its entirety during lunchtime, I was struck by the gritty detail and substance the President brought to the table. Delivered in a passionate and defiant tone, the Prez carefully and specifically laid out what his administration has been doing to prosecute the Global War on Terror (GWOT), why it’s been prosecuted that way, and how we’ve come to the point where Congressional action and courtrooms are to become necessary components in the fight. While some conservatives might bemoan the President having to resort to this kind of thing while we’re at war with people who could care less about the vagaries of due process and the niceties of international law, I think this is a brilliant coup for the President, for the following reasons:

1) It was necessary. For too long now, the Prez has been talking about the GWOT in the high-falootin’ language of generalities and concepts when people need and deserve to know the gritty, down-and-dirty details of who and what we’re up against. It was important for the President to back away from confusing, generic labels like “Islamo-fascists” and give people specifics. When, almost five years to the day, we still need to be reminded of the kind of people that would slit the throats of flight attendants, passengers, and pilots and fly planes into buildings, something hasn’t been communicated well enough.

2) It’s about time. For too long liberal Democrats and the international community have been using the administration as a punching bag over the secrecy of these detention programs. And while I could give a rat’s patoot what both were saying, there’s no question the administration’s case has been harmed over the long haul by being kept on the defensive needlessly. Whether pushed into it by the Supreme Court’s Hamdan decision or by other forms of political and international pressure, the time had come to make sure everyone understands what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. Today’s speech gets things out in the open and puts the administration back on offense.

3) As Wilfred Brimley was wont to say, it’s the right thing to do. If the President is going to tout the greatness of our American democracy to other countries around the world by saying (in part) that we are a nation of laws, we shouldn’t be afraid of those laws and the due process involved – even if it means extending legal rights to enemy combatants. Whether its frontier or courtroom justice they end up getting, those who are indeed guilty will get what they deserve.

4) It is timely. It’s unfortunate we live in such a politically-polarized and negatively-charged climate where no matter what you do it will be seen through the prism of politics, but two months before the mid-term elections, that’s the way it is. The brilliance of the President’s speech today is that, by forcing Congress to deliberate over such touchy issues as military tribunals and torture guidelines, it says to all those armchair quarterbacks in Congress (Democrat and Republican) who have been pounding the administration from Day 1, “welcome to our world”. Now it is THEY who will have to do the dirty work and provide the guidelines and logistics the administration and military are requesting, and how each member votes will be on record for everyone to see. Enjoy the spotlight, boys and girls.

5) It is ballsy. Sure, the Dems will say they were the ones that forced the administration’s hand on this, but what else can they say? The President has cut the floor out from under them and put the onus on them to work with Republicans and the administration on the legislation he has sent to Congress. If they do, they’re marching to the President’s beat and he looks like a leader. If they don’t, they become blatant obstructionists putting our country at risk.

For too long all we’ve heard from the President’s critics is that our country is not as safe, the administration is bending and breaking the law, we’re losing the war on terror, blah blah blah. The President’s speech today calls their bluff, and basically says: OK smart-asses, what would YOU have us do? It was one the President HAD to give, and a message both our nation and its elected officials needed to hear.

And I’m not alone in my opinion. Hugh gives it high marks, an RCP military source calls it a brilliant stroke. NRO’s John Derbyshire was quite impressed, as were his cohorts Jonah Goldberg and Mario Loyola. Loyola restates my point #4 above far better than I ever could, and summarizes things quite nicely:

By transferring most major Al Qaeda terrorists to Guantanamo, and simultaneously sending Congress a bill to rescue the Military Commissions from the Supreme Court’s ruling Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, the President spectacularly ambushed the Democrats on terrain they fondly thought their own. Now Democrats who oppose (and who have vociferously opposed) the Military Commissions will in effect be opposing the prosecution of the terrorists who planned and launched the attacks of September 11 for war crimes.

…the President’s maneuver today turned the political tables completely around. He stole the terms of debate from the Democrats, and rewrote them, all in a single speech. It will be delightful to watch in coming days and hours as bewildered Democrats try to understand what just hit them, and then sort through the rubble of their anti-Bush national security strategy to see what, if anything, remains.

Filed in: Politics & World Events by The Great White Shank at 15:47 | Comments Off on An Important Speech
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