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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

McIlheran Watch: "The left's trick has been to say that legal things are illegal."

by folkbum

Huh. And all this time I thought our best trick was to turn sure electoral victories into stunning defeats without either smoke or mirrors. But whatever.

The context: McIlheran quotes Thomas Lifson of the ironically named "American Thinker," who noticed that Barack Obama once said he would direct his justice department to prosecute criminals. First, of course, I have to question why the sudden turnaround on the whole "tough on crime" question--apparently it's a bonus when your preferred candidate is a Republican but it's a bit of a drag when the other side does it? I don't get it that, but expecting consistency among the right these days is a bit like waiting for the Great Pumpkin.

Anyway, here's Obama:
So this is an area where I would want to exercise judgment--I would want to find out directly from my Attorney General--having pursued, having looked at what's out there right now--are there possibilities of genuine crimes as opposed to really bad policies? And I think it's important--one of the things we've got to figure out in our political culture generally is distinguishing between really dumb policies and policies that rise to the level of criminal activity. [. . . I]f I found out that there were high officials who knowingly, consciously broke existing laws, engaged in cover-ups of those crimes with knowledge forefront [aforethought?], then I think a basic principle of our Constitution is nobody above the law--and I think that's roughly how I would look at it.
From this, Lifson gets something that reads as the exact opposite: Lifson accuses Obama planning on "putting [his] predecessors on trial for their conduct of policy."

That's right: Despite Obama's clear statement that he will differentiate between bad policy and criminal activity, Lifson writes that Obama will prosecute policy. And McIlheran, who apparently didn't bother to check what Obama really said before approvingly quoting Lifson's misrepresentation, has to get defensive in the comments, putting words into the mouths of both Obama and Will Bunch, the blogger who asked Obama the question:
[C]alling the Bush administration a band of war criminals [is not] at all new to the sort of anti-war crowd that Obama has long considered his base--the phrase is used endlessly on Huffington, Crooks and Liars, so forth. [. . . T]he original PDN blogger set up the context exactly: Daily News writer Will Bunch, who did the interview, appears to feel Obama's statement is exactly about viewing waterboarding as a potential war crime.
Neither Obama nor Bunch used the phrase "war crime" or anything similar in that original posting--you can read it for yourself. That is an invention of Lifson's, borrowed by McIlheran, who sputters that the phrase shows up on HuffPo sometimes so it must be in Obama's platform.

But then McIlheran follows up with the line that serves as the title of this post: "The left's trick has been to say that legal things are illegal," he says. Like what? I asked him. (That comment's not out of moderation yet--he doesn't keep the insane morning hours that I do.) But he offers hints; he specifically mentions waterboarding and warrantless wiretaps, both of which I thought were already pretty clearly illegal--you don't need "the left" to read the plain language of the FISA statutes or the US history of prosecuting those who have waterboarded. But I suggest it could also have something to do with Obama's plan to review the Constitutionality of everything that the Bush administration has been up to.

Besides, haven't we been hearing all along from "the right" that if we've done nothing wrong, we have nothing to fear? So then what's McIlheran so afraid of?

Also see Tom Foley, Esq.

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