98-pound weaklings

The column by Bob Herbert about Alberto Gonzales the “torturer” that Rocket Man included in his post “Briar Revisited” is unusually revealing. Not because Herbert offers anything resembling an argument. In fact, the Times Man provides no evidence or analysis to support his attempt to link his allegations that the U.S. engages in “maiming [and] sexually abusing and even killing prisoners” to any act or omission by Gonzales.
The revealing part of Herbert’s diatribe occurs early on when he writes that Gonzales’ “judgment regarding the detention and treatment of prisoners in Iraq and the so-called war on terror have been both unsound and shameful.” It is the left’s normally unstated view that the war on terror is not real that serves as the predicate for its complaints about the way suspected terrorists are being treated. If you think we really are at war with terrorists, then you react one way when our intelligence and/or military officers ask you how far they can go in trying to obtain information from terror suspects. If you think the war is a phony, you react differently. In the former instance, you’re inclined, I hope, to keep on the table for consideration (though not necessarily implementation) any approach that we hadn’t agreed not to use prior to 9/11. After all, why should we become more solicitous of the rights of our enemies in war time? But if we’re only in a so-called war, the standard I’ve suggested makes much less sense.
This is one of the main reasons why I continue to believe that the Democrats will be making a mistake if they push too hard on this issue in connection with the Gonzales nomination. Since 9/11, the Democrats have suffered two major electoral defeats. In both elections, I believe, the main reason was the American public’s doubts about the Democrats’ seriousness when it comes to fighting terrorism. And these doubts are certainly the major common feature of the two elections. Even Herbert recognizes the problem, sort of, when he states “the Democrats have become the 98-pound weaklings of the 21st century.” Unfortunately, Herbert doesn’t realize that the Dems have become weaklings because the voting public already views them as such.
The first day of the Senate hearings seemed to confirm that the key Senators opposing Gonzales don’t take the war on terrorism very seriously. Democratic Senators (along, unfortunately, with Republican Lindsay Graham) kept arguing that our use of debatable interrogation tactics puts our soldiers in harm’s way because it means that when they are captured they are more likely to be tortured. There is some truth to this argument, but it would have been nice if one of these Senators had acknowledged that our actual enemies will behead any American (soldier or not) that they capture regardless of what interrogations tactics we use. It would also have been edifying if Gonzales’ opponents had recognized the possibility that information obtained through aggressive interrogation can save lives. But, again, if you don’t think the war on terror is real, this point is easier to lose sight of.
Rocket Man questions whether there’s a downside for the Democrats in becoming prisoners’ rights advocates for terrorists. He notes that MSM coverage of the hearing insulates them. The Dems have relied on such insulation since 2002 with little success. As a result, the burden is on them to satisfy Americans that they are serious about terrorism. But many of them seem intent on digging themselves a deeper hole, rather than trying to climb out.


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