As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

With Friends Like These

With Friends Like These

by dday

Is there one right-wing hissy fit the Democrats can manage to ignore? I know, simple answers to stupid questions, the answer is no.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) declared in a press conference today, “We will never allow terrorists to be released into the United States.” In several tense back and forths with reporters, Reid said he opposes imprisoning detainees on U.S. soil, saying flatly, “We don’t want them around the United States”:

REID: I’m saying that the United States Senate, Democrats and Republicans, do not want terrorists to be released in the United States. That’s very clear.

QUESTION: No one’s talking about releasing them. We’re talking about putting them in prison somewhere in the United States.

REID: Can’t put them in prison unless you release them.

QUESTION: Sir, are you going to clarify that a little bit? …

REID: I can’t make it any more clear than the statement I have given to you. We will never allow terrorists to be released in the United States.

Later, Reid repeated that he would not support Guantanamo detainees being transferred to U.S prisons:

QUESTION: But Senator, Senator, it’s not that you’re not being clear when you say you don’t want them released. But could you say — would you be all right with them being transferred to an American prison?

REID: Not in the United States.

That floating plastic island in the Pacific is looking better and better every day.

No doubt Reid's sudden lack of confidence in the federal prison system and trickle of piss tumbling down his pants has something to do with the low approval ratings coming out of Nevada. But more than that, he exhibits the exact same knee-jerk response to Republican fearmongering to which we've grown accustomed - a weak-kneed backpedal displayed in the name of looking strong and tough. This statement Reid's office released makes absolutely no sense, proving again Digby's point that, when politicians start speaking Engrish instead of English, you know they're hiding something:

"President George W. Bush, Senator John McCain, Secretary Colin Powell, President Obama and I all agree – Guantanamo must be closed. President Obama’s approach is a responsible one. [...]

“The amendment Chairman Inouye has offered today recognizes that it would be premature for Congress to act before the Administration proposes its plan. I support his amendment. On two important points, however, we do not need to wait for any instruction – and there should be no misunderstanding. Let me be clear: Democrats will not move to close Guantanamo without a responsible plan in place to ensure Americans’ safety. And we will never allow a terrorist to be released into the United States.

“This amendment is as clear as day. It explicitly bars using the funds in this bill to ‘transfer, release or incarcerate’ any of the Guantanamo detainees in the United States. When the Administration closes Guantanamo, we will ensure it does so the right way.”

So we have to close Guantanamo, but we will never allow terrorists to pump our gas or check us out at Wal-Mart, but we also won't transfer, release or incarcerate any Guantanamo detainees, whether they've been absolved of any terrorism charges or not. But in the end, don't worry, we'll do the "right" thing. Sounds like they need some kind of detention facility outside the United States, maybe on foreign soil, to handle those dangerous sorts. Maybe Cuba has something opening up soon.

Harry Reid needs to get himself down to Guantanamo and personally inform the Uighurs, who have been held in a Kafka-esque legal black hole for seven years, innocent of crimes and cleared for release but without a country to call home, why his misplacing of his vertebrae means that they must stay locked in prison forever. Maybe they'll say to his face what they said to Newt Gingrich through interpreters: "Why does he hate us so much and say those kinds of things? He doesn't know us."

Meanwhile, Mitch McConnell is laughing his ass off:

Senate Democrats won rare praise from Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who hailed their "flexibility" on closing Guantanamo Bay and other national security issues.

"Well, they're certainly coming in the right direction," McConnell told reporters about Democrats' decision to strip money to close the Naval detention center from the war supplemental bill.

McConnell said Americans "ought to be pleased that our friends on the other side of the aisle are showing some flexibility on this issue and heading in our direction," adding that he hoped President Obama would show similar flexibility, as with his reversed decision on releasing photos of detainee abuse.

"The president has shown some flexibility on national security issues," McConnell said. "I hope he will have some flexibility on the detainee facility at Guantanamo, because it really has worked very, very well."

I can't wait for the day Obama reverses hiimself and keeps Guantanamo open. The pundits will praise him endlessly for his wise centrism. And he might as well, considering the restoration of military commissions with the same flaws as before, including continued use of evidence obtained from HEARSAY - think about the implications of allowing evidence in an American-sponsored court based on anonymous whispers. Nobody wanted a change of venue from Guantanamo because they didn't like the name. It was about the sad legacy of the policies practiced there.

The problem with Reid's obnoxious, intelligence-insulting backpedal, aside from how easily anyone can discern the party on offense from the party on defense, is that the entire Democratic Party has flat stopped making any argument about national security from the perspective of civil liberties and human rights, and how respecting both ultimately makes us safer. Even if Democrats believe it - and most of them don't - they either think it's too nuanced for the country to accept (wrong) or too easily demagogued by the hissy fit stirrers on the right (who are completely discredited). And this of course starts right at the top. Obama put himself in this position, where the Senate Majority Leader is now flopping around like a fish trying to look "tough." But Reid is of course collateral damage in this battle to burnish the "sensible center," as defined by what George Bush did to keep us safe. Here's Glenn:

What is, in my view, most noteworthy about all of this is how it gives the lie to the collective national claim that we learned our lesson and are now regretful about the Bush/Cheney approach to Terrorism. Republicans are right about the fact that while it was Bush officials who led the way in implementing these radical and lawless policies, most of the country's institutions -- particularly the Democratic Party leadership and the media -- acquiesced to it, endorsed it, and enabled it. And they still do [...]

As Maureen Dowd pointed out in the non-plagiarized part of her column on Sunday, the reason Bush was able to do what he did is because "very few watchdogs — in the Democratic Party or the press — were pushing back against the Bush horde in 2002 and 2003, when magazines were gushing about W. and Cheney as conquering heroes." But all of this recent media commentary makes clear that media stars and Democratic leaders now are only pretending to find Bush/Cheney policies repugnant because Bush is now so unpopular and his policies were proven to be failures. As a result, a new face is needed for those policies, but the belief in the rightness of those policies hasn't changed. They still consider Bush/Cheney policies "centrist" and responsible -- only Leftist Purists oppose them -- and thus heap praise on Obama for embracing them. We're still the same country we were in 2003. Our media stars and political leaders from both parties still think the same way. That's why the more Obama embraces the Bush/Cheney approach, the more praise he gets for Centrism.

This is not only a losing argument around the world, as the stars fall from their eyes when they witness the same distasteful policies wrapped up in a prettier package. It's also a lose POLITICALLY to strengthen the arguments of your opponents and alienate your supporters. I'm just a DFH who doesn't know how the world works, but it seems to me that the Democrats never succeeded by trying to take issues "off the table," only by confronting them and offering a better argument. I guess that makes me unserious.

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