"When you think of the debates just now on the confirmation of Mike Mukasey, when you think of the debates on the Patriot Act... Someone once said to me that, what they don't get about the Democrats, and even some Republicans that do this is, they're more concerned about rights for terrorists than the terrorists' wrongs. I mean, these granting of rights to criminals and terrorists, even when they're necessary, come with a price, a price at the other end of it. Even for the ones that are necessary, like, let's say, the Miranda ruling, it's one you agree with--there's a price for that. Maybe it's one worth paying.
The exclusionary rule, there's a big price for that: Criminals go free. They walk out of court. If you say, you know, no aggressive questioning, then we're not going to find out about situations. If you say no wiretapping, well, there'll be conversations going on, planning to bomb New York, or Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and you're not going to find out. And, when we draw these lines, at least let's be honest with people about the consequences of them. Let's not fool them into thinking that there is no consequences to this. People will say that aggressive questioning doesn't work. I, you know, I ... Honest answer to that is, it doesn't work all the time. Sometimes it does," - Rudy Giuliani.
"Aggressive questioning"? And you thought "enhanced interrogation" was Orwellian. "Rights for terrorists"? How about rights for terror suspects? I'm sorry but those of us who support the Constitution, the rule of law, the Geneva Conventions, and the separation of powers are not in love with the evil that terrorists do. And it's deeply offensive to say we have more concern with terrorists' rights than with their wrongs. We have concerns about human rights and civil liberties - things that Islamists want to destroy.
We are just aware that demagoguic over-reaction can destroy liberty more profoundly than any terrorist act. And by demagoguic, I mean the notion that opposition to torture or detention without charges or warrantless wiretapping or a law-free executive is somehow pro-terror. It is, rather, pro-freedom. And freedom, in the end, is the only real answer to Islamism's evil.
Notice, moreover, that Giuliani seems to harbor no notion that any terror suspect in the US is innocent until proven guilty, and assumes a complete, reflexive conflation between "criminals" and those charged with a crime, as if no government official could ever confuse the two, or ever make a mistake and decide to cover it up. Notice also his assertion that some Democrats want no wiretapping, period. What they and rule-of-law Republicans favor is wiretapping with warrants, and minimal oversight, to prevent abuse. Again: what's staggering to me is that Giuliani never seems to contemplate that such abuse is even possible. Nothing could be more alien to a truly conservative mindset.
It seems to me that a vote for Giuliani is a vote for a police state that uses torture. I put it that bluntly because I don't see how granting one man the right to seize and torture anyone anywhere is anything else. Let's be honest about that reality too, shall we? And it's in that context that you have to understand Giuliani's fondness for a certain kind of judge. Giuliani will appoint judges who believe that the executive branch should be granted carte blanche in wartime - and wartime is now defined as permanent and includes as potential "enemy combatants" anyone in the US or anywhere else liable to seizure and "aggressive questioning" by cops or soldiers. Just think about the consequences of that for a while, even in the hands of a man or woman with a record of restraint and level-headedness and magnanimity. Now imagine those powers handed to someone with a long history of vindictiveness, over-reach, and hot-headedness.
American civil liberty has been gutted by the current Bush-Cheney administration. Some loss was inevitable and justifiable - but the extent of the administration's over-reach continues to amaze. When they even offend a man like Jack Goldsmith whose view of executive power would have been deemed on the far-right fringe not so long ago, you know how far we've gone and how fast. Electing Giuliani after Cheney would be a retroactive endorsement of all of it - and a further entrenchment of the security state. Majorities may well vote for this, ginned up by Fox News, "24", and, in the worst scenario, another terror attack. But a protectorate endorsed by electoral majorities is still a protectorate. And these things matter - more than any other issue, because they are definitional of the West, and the most basic freedoms that our predecessors died for.
(Photo: Win McNamee/Getty.)