After September 11, there was a period of consensus among those in power in Washington that terrorism, until that time treated as a crime and thus a matter best dealt with by the justice system, was obviously an existential phenomenon that had all the hallmarks of sovereign malevolent force that was best combated by the military and, uh, military justice. Not since...ever... has the issue been clarified for the electorate.

Barack Obama

And, you know, let's take the example of Guantanamo. What we know is that, in previous terrorist attacks -- for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated. And the fact that the administration has not tried to do that has created a situation where not only have we never actually put many of these folks on trial, but we have destroyed our credibility when it comes to rule of law all around the world, and given a huge boost to terrorist recruitment in countries that say, 'Look, this is how the United States treats Muslims.' So that, I think, is an example of something that was unnecessary. We could have done the exact same thing, but done it in a way that was consistent with our laws

John McCain's foreign policy guru, Randy Scheunemann:

"Barack Obama's belief that we should treat terrorists as nothing more than common criminals demonstrates a stunning and alarming misunderstanding of the threat we face from radical Islamic extremism. Obama holds up the prosecution of the terrorists who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993 as a model for his administration, when in fact this failed approach of treating terrorism simply as a matter of law enforcement rather than a clear and present danger to the United States contributed to the tragedy of September 11th. This is change that will take us back to the failed policies of the past and every American should find this mindset troubling."

Let us concede that both Obama and McCain's positions encompass shades of gray. But the difference is fairly fundamental, no? McCain's response to the SCOTUS ruling last week that Gitmo detainees were due the right of habeas corpus was to say, in effect, judges shouldn't determine which terrorists belong in custody; this is a war; the executive branch should. Obama's response was basically the opposite.

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