The Politics of the Speech

Tomorrow, I'm going to detail the major lies in the president's speech today. Tonight, it's worth reflecting on the real point of the address. The president knows he and his party are in deep trouble this November. So he needs a real Hail Mary pass to avoid a crushing defeat. Power Line understands what was going on as well as Josh Marshall:

The real news that came out of the speech was that the 14 high-ranking terrorists now in CIA custody will be transferred to Guantanamo for criminal prosecution, and that the administration is asking Congress to pass comprehensive legislation authorizing military tribunals and protecting American servicemen and CIA employees from prosecution or lawsuits arising out of their interrogations of captured terrorists.

This is, in large part, a response to the unfortunate Hamdan decision. From a political standpoint, though, the Left won't be happy about the return of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, Zubaydah, et al. to the front pages; nor will Democrats in Congress relish having to vote on a vital issue of national security between now and November.

Here's the money quote of the speech:

We're now approaching the five-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks - and the families of those murdered that day have waited patiently for justice. Some of the families are with us today - they should have to wait no longer. So I'm announcing today that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and 11 other terrorists in CIA custody have been transferred to the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay. They are being held in the custody of the Department of Defense. As soon as Congress acts to authorize the military commissions I have proposed, the men our intelligence officials believe orchestrated the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans on September the 11th, 2001, can face justice.

This is the Rove gambit: make this election a choice between legalizing torture or enabling the murderers of 9/11 to escape justice. The timing is deliberate; the exploitation of 9/11 gob-smacking; the cynicism fathomless. There is only one response: call them on it and vote for their opponents in November. And pray that in the meantime, John McCain won't lose his nerve or his integrity.