by Patrick Appel
Obama supporters spent months vigorously defending the decision to try KSM in a civilian court on the ground that Obama was upholding the Constitution and defending the rule of law. What are they going to say if he reverses himself and uses military commissions instead: that he's shredding the Constitution and trampling on the rule of law? If they have any intellectual integrity at all, that's what they will have to say.
Every time Obama compromises on a matter of national-security and civil-liberties principle, his GOP opponents raise the pressure to get him to bend further. His compromises earn him no good will. He is being, simply, punked. And if he compromises on KSM, does he really think the Guantanamo Bay votes will roll in; or will he simply have enough to break a potential filibuster around the Afghanistan war funding request? Obama can fight and win. Or he can compromise, demoralize his base, and the GOP will continue to roll him.
Think of the worst possible scenario for what would have happened to New York City, no matter how remote, then insert that into a campaign ad. There's no way to disprove what might have been. Human nature will be to focus on the bullet that we supposedly dodged. Whereas if you actually suck it up and proceed with the trial, it takes all the wind of out that sail. People still go to work, buildings don't fall down, the ground doesn't open up and swallow Manhattan. Democrats show they're strong and resolute and the issue goes away.
I’m not going to attempt to defend this. I’ll merely note that it’s hard enough to have any kind of civil liberties in this country when the opposition party is pushing for them. When what you have is an opposition that’s pressuring incumbent officials to seize more power for themselves the incentive structure is nuts and the constitution is going to be shredded.