TCS Daily


Good Politics, Good Policy

By Michael Rosen - October 6, 2006 12:00 AM

If elections were held every other month, perhaps Congress would actually manage to get something done.

Last week was a perfect example. In the final few days of the 109th Congress's pre-election session, both the Senate and the House managed to pass several critical - and controversial - pieces of homeland security-related legislation: the establishment of military tribunals and interrogation techniques for terror suspects; the extension of FISA to cover surveillance of terrorists; and the construction of a 700-mile-long fence along the Mexican border.

These bills marked a significant victory for President Bush and congressional Republicans (they badly need one, given the terrible Mark Foley scandal). But it would be wrong to accuse them, as many liberals and media elite have done, of twisting policy for political gains. If anything, they manipulated politics in the service of good policy.

Don't get me wrong: the president and his party scored lots of points on the strength of these victories. But the U.S. as a whole is the true beneficiary.

Take the debate over military commissions and interrogations. The need for congressional action was announced by the Supreme Court in its Hamdan decision in late June. Many commentators, myself included, mused that this would provide an ideal issue for Republicans to run on during the summer and fall. After all, what self-respecting politician (or voter, for that matter) would buck the president on an issue of such magnitude?

Well, we found out that three Republicans - Sens. John McCain, John Warner, and Lindsey Graham - were just such gentlemen. They resisted the administration's approaches to questioning and trying detainees, claiming they were draconian and would put American soldiers at risk (since, of course, to date, our captives have been treated so humanely by the terrorists who nab them).

Yet in addition to being wrong, the three amigos threatened to spoil all the fun the Republicans hoped to have throwing mud at the Democrats for being too wimpy to be trusted to protect Americans. Instead, those on the Left gleefully wallowed in the internecine conflict between the president and the "insurgents" within his party.

But as the players returned to script, the scene changed: the three senators reached a compromise with the president (one widely thought to favor the administration's position), thereby enabling supporters of the new legislation to turn their firepower on its detractors.

This tactic worked like a charm. Virtually every Democratic senator facing a tough re-election battle - Sens. Lieberman (Connecticut), Menendez (New Jersey), Nelson (Florida), and Stabenow (Michigan) - voted in favor of S. 3930. Every Republican, save for Sen. Lincoln Chafee who's running for his life in deep-blue Rhode Island, supported the bill. The final tally was 65-34, a fairly resounding margin.

On the House side, two prominent Democrats locked in tight Senate races - Sherrod Brown (Ohio) and Harold Ford (Tennessee) - voted for the bill, apparently with their backs against the wall. Rep. Brown claimed that he's "willing to stand up to my party when they're wrong" while lamenting that "some people just don't want me to agree with George Bush on anything."

What's more, most Republicans struggling to retain their seats, and reportedly distancing themselves from the president, voted in favor. Their ranks include Nancy Johnson (Connecticut), Deborah Pryce (Ohio), Heather Wilson (New Mexico), and Jim Gerlach (Pennsylvania).

In short, the vast majority of folks engaged in heated election campaigns voted for the legislation.

Yet Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, told reporters, "we've polled this extensively" and detainees and tribunals "are secondary issues to most people." No stranger a bedfellow than conservative radio host Laura Ingraham agreed with this assessment.

But this isn't quite accurate: what Americans aren't all that concerned about are rights for terror suspects - or at least not the kinds of right urged upon Congress by the likes of the New York Times. What they do care deeply about is ensuring our national security and bolstering our efforts to combat terrorists.

And this the interrogation and tribunals bill does in spades. For one thing, it provides clearer guidance to CIA and military questioners as to how to treat detainees. That the bill sets forth any interrogation standards is itself a major accomplishment; otherwise, our servicemen and women will continue to live in fear of prosecution or civil litigation arising out of their efforts to obtain life-saving information.

As for the substance of those standards, while the bill quite rightly rules out torture, it does not extend to these detainees the full suite of rights available to traditional combatants under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. Quite simply, for reasons that have been set forth in detail elsewhere, Al Qaeda and even Taliban fighters do not meet these requirements. Again, this is not to say that they aren't entitled to basic humane treatment, and S. 3930 sets a floor for such care.

The same logic applies to the bill's tribunal provisions. These afforded certain protections similar to those enjoyed by defendants in American courts. But the military commissions will limit certain of the detainees' evidentiary privileges (such as the right to see the most sensitive national security evidence arrayed against the detainee) and will appropriately deny them the right to file habeas corpus petitions.


While not perfect, this is the legislation that Americans have hoped for, a much-needed antidote to the Court's Hamdan ruling. And the president and his congressional allies adroitly deployed the political timetable in such a way as to ensure the bill's passage. While the political benefits are undeniable, this is a clear instance in which good politics made for good policy.

Michael M. Rosen, TCS Daily's Intellectual Property columnist, is an attorney in San Diego.

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33 Comments

Interesting thoughts
Though I'm not sure that is all of the story, it did light a fire.

I think I'm going to throw up
Sorry if I get some on your pom-pons.

Then again, maybe you deserve it for making the room spin so bad.

It's O.K.
They're not my pom-poms, I stold them from your brother.

Don't yopu normally send candy to male cheer leaders Booby?
Why change now?

settle down
Thats right they're not your pom-pons Pauled, they're Rosen's. I know you're better than that.

Nope
I'm not a Republican

Suspension of Habeas Corpus & Authorization of Torture against those suspected of terrorism is not "
At the end of WW2 we jailed a Japanese officer for 15 years for waterboarding, at the time we considered it to be a war crime. Now it's acceptable practice against anyone that might have information of value in the war on terror. At the risk of sounding conservative, it was a war crime then and it's a war crime now.

I'm also shocked that in the U.S.A. I could be picked up and charged with terrorism, and I would not even have the right to see the evidence that is being used against me. I wouldn't be proud of stripping Americans of thier protection against arbitrary state action.

Hell, you're in a class by yourself you're a regular Stubbs
In more ways than one.

Madrassa award for pussies
Good dhimmie.

Euro justice
In Europe you can be detained and held without charge or trial. I read in the Telegraph that there is an Englishman languishing in a Spanish jail now under those circumstances. The UK is now abandoning the rule against double jeopardy. Some chump was tried and aquitted years ago. Recently he was retried and convicted for the same crime. The Common Law is yielding to the Roman law as Europe becomes standardized.

By the way, if you think European soldiers and police won't mistreat detainess, you are dreaming. The Brits tortured and violated thre rights of Irish terrorist many times. It's a tough old world.

Yes,
But I just couldn't resist answering that response of yours. Not upset, just too much fun! LOL

I kind of liked the article; don't necessarily fully agree with what he's cheering for, but the point is a good one. It happens every times congress is getting ready to go idle for any reason.

Kind of scary to watch the ants on capitol hill scramble like they do.

War crimes and liberals
Waterboarding is a non-fatal, non-invasive form of interrogation that, while disturbing, does not leave any lasting effects. We are not cutting-off fingers or strapping electrodes to genitals, we are fooling their body in to thinking it is drowning. Boy, we really are awful. So awful we even do it to our OWN troops to ready them for it.

By the way, in a few days, I am pretty sure you are going to feel a little silly using this article. My guess is that Ted "The Swimmer" Kennedy left out a few critical details, like the fact that this Japanese officer was accused of using other forms of torture or committing genocide in China.

As a final note, this whole question of not being able to see the evidence against you is moot. The people who are arrested on the BATTLEFIELD in Afganistan and Iraq are not allowed to see the evidence against them. If you are an American citizen arrested here at home, you will be arrested by police, and allowed to see the evidence against you.

Of course, the easiest way to avoid this sort of thing is simply not to associate with terrorists.

War crimes and liberals
Waterboarding is a non-fatal, non-invasive form of interrogation that, while disturbing, does not leave any lasting effects. We are not cutting-off fingers or strapping electrodes to genitals, we are fooling their body in to thinking it is drowning. Boy, we really are awful. So awful we even do it to our OWN troops to ready them for it.

By the way, in a few days, I am pretty sure you are going to feel a little silly using this article. My guess is that Ted "The Swimmer" Kennedy left out a few critical details, like the fact that this Japanese officer was accused of using other forms of torture or committing genocide in China.

As a final note, this whole question of not being able to see the evidence against you is moot. The people who are arrested on the BATTLEFIELD in Afganistan and Iraq are not allowed to see the evidence against them. If you are an American citizen arrested here at home, you will be arrested by police, and allowed to see the evidence against you.

Of course, the easiest way to avoid this sort of thing is simply not to associate with terrorists.

"War crimes and liberals" is a response to your post.
I apologize for the placement. I am having toruble getting my browser to work properly...

Mystery to me
How can it be that if we are a country that would sweep someone off the streets and torture them for nothing, that so many people want to immigrate here? People do not immigrate to North Korea, Iran, Syria, Russia, China, Mexico.
I would appreciate seing your published references to the story about the Japanese officer being jailed for waterboarding.

How the Left supports our troops
Its amazing that rather than demand justice for those who torture and kill our troops the Left stands there and demands rights for terrorists they know will not be given to our troops. The same thing they have adopted regarding murderers and their victims. Who'd expect anything different from such craven traitors?

"Moral High Ground"
We have to hold the moral high ground in the War on Terror! If we start torturing people we will be just as bad as Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot. What we really need is to ensure that our armed forces take lawyers with them in to battle, who can ensure that the terrorists on the battlefield have proper representation. We also need to put a stop to the rampant brutality that our forces engage in on the battlefield. Shooting at the enemy! Without proper warrants! Really! What are we, genocidal maniacs?

Yeah, the liberals are totally insane. They have a persistent problem recognizing evil people, and dealing with them accordingly. They assume that we must have done something to anybody who wants to attack us, and that we must be to blame for their hatred.

The only explanation I can come up with is that liberals are confusing the way they would like people to behave with the way that people actually behave. They want people to be altruistic, reasonable and peaceful. People are in fact self-interested, frequently irrational and violent.

According to this theory, people who are acting irrational and violent must be doing so because somebody has injured them in some way, and they are only seeking just retribution. Thus, when Muslims begin bombing our buildings, they are doing so because they are poor, or because we support the Israeilis who stole land from them, etc., not because they are lunatics whose religion instructs them to do so. Liberals can support communist thugs because those thugs are trying to create a better life for their people through cooperation and sharing, not simply seizing power and trying to con their citizens in to believing that it is for their own good.

Ted Turner
I saw an interview with the Mouth of the South this morning. Ted declared that if someone were to force him to choose between the US and the jihadists, he wouldn't be able to choose.

Isn't Moral High Ground another name for Boot Hill?
The Allies fought using every tactic the Axis did and worse to win WWII. As far as I recall we didn't turn into Nazi Germany. People who are more concerned about what some cafe reader in Paris thinks of them than what the enemy thinks is headed for a nasty awakening. The Left is not crazy just dedicated to seeing us defeated as you have observed.

It is simplistic to paint our enemies as lunatics. Fanatics, dedicated, ruthless yes, but they are far from lunatics. Leftists support anyone who promises utopia not through excellence but through one size fits all policies in sacrifice while also providing one size fits all policies for rewards. One sees these policies in action in rainforrest tribes all the time. One can understand why failures and lossers would support such policies.

I left out one key element:
In the world of the left, there has to be a space at the top of the "moral high-ground" for those people of sufficient compassion, intelligence, culture and sophistication to sit and issue commands to the masses.

Every leftist has to believe that they will end up at the top of the hill, or that they will be favored by the people at the summit.

"Lunatic" might be a strong word, but I think that their hallucination that human nature can be changed to fit their view of what mankind should be is insane. We have thousands of years of evidence that it just does not work. If you keep attempting the same things over and over again, despite the fact that they have entirely failed in the past, dosen't that make you crazy?

He was jailed for more than just waterboarding.
Yukio Asano was jailed for torturing prisoners in other ways, as well. He did not get fifteen years for waterboarding, he got it for a variety of offenses which included "the water treatment."

However, the Japanese did not practice waterboarding as we do it today. They actually did "drown" people, and then kicked them and punched them until they coughed up the water. This is similar to the way that we do thing only insofar as we use water.

That 700 mile fence...
I still think it's going to be vetoed. It is terrible, terrible international policy. Bush knows it. The race baiters on the right need to look at a frigging map. We can treat Mexico as a partner and work to make it a wealthy nation like our own, or we can build a fence and invite the Mexican version of Iran, or worse, Lebanon, next door. Fortunately, there is a grown-up in charge in the White House, and he'll figure out a way to help his party without screwing his nation. Playing Rosen's theme a little more... Bush could veto it, give his good reasons, then say he'll reconsider if Republicans keep control of the House and Senate. If immigration is such a hot issue, what are anti-immigrationists to do? Vote Democrat? Hah!

The dustbin of history is filled with nations
Which believed their best defense was diplomacy. Unfortunately the most priviledged and eudcated people are also usually devoid of common sense. Its not that they are crazy so much as lacking an understanding of human nature and history.

More bombast from the Manana crowd
If only the US would adopt Mexico's laws regarding Immigration. Then these illegals would know what suffering is!

I have a better idea for you Bosco, lets put up a fense along the entire Mexican border, blame the Republicans and watch the Democrats bray your line. Then lets see what happens in November!

Birds of a feather... ?
Perhaps the piece of the puzzle that you are missing is that the law was just passed and it takes time for the information to be widely known.

I was very surprised last year to learn that people from Africa would much rather immigrate to Europe than to the USA. Europeans do not want to come to the USA (unless they too are right wing conservatives). China is doing well enough that people want to stay there. Moreover they have been successful in convincing ex-patriots residing in the USA to return to China, taking with them their learned skills.

So I think your vision of America being this great immigrant Mecca is out of date. People still want to come here. But they are not bringing any intellectual resources.

In fact, intellectual rsources are moving in the opposite direction because they favor freedom.

Bets are against you
Five will get you ten that your boy-wonder, Bush is toast at this point.

Birds of a feather
I would like to study the sources for your assertions if you would be kind enough to make them available.
European countries do offer more social services to immigrants which may make immigrating there a priority to some. I think that the people who come to America are looking more for opportunity than services. When you look at the dynamics of our economy, it dwarfs the output of all of the EU combined.
Some of the social unrest in the EU from immigrants may not support your claims.

How about betting on Hillary?
Give you the same odds regardless of who the GOP nominates. This country has had enough of arrogant, incomeptents who like to wag their fingers at the public. Besides Bush isn't my boy.

How do you explain that America has more immigrants than the rest of the world combined?
I'd like to believe having sampled French TV fare and their love of Jerry Lewis it has to do with the absence of taste in France. As for the rest of Europe, who wants to be a dhimmie?

Time to disconnect
This article convinces me that a subscription to TCS Daily is no longer desirable. TCS embraces the myth that repudiating the Bill of Rights somehow enhances American security (for the people not the politicians). On the contrary, protecting the politicians from the exposure of their crimes makes the people LESS secure.
Apologists for war crimes have no place on my computer any more. Good-bye TCS.

Its great to hear someone denounce Kerry and Clinton's war crimes
It is time to denounce these warmongers and war criminals. People who risk the security of the US while giving terrorists rights that American criminals do not enjoy should be exposed. They make the people less secure.
Apologists for such morlocks have no place in the home of any intelligent or law abiding person.

intentions?
I have come to believe that liberals are so convinced in their own superiority, that they believe it doesn't matter how much damage they do to the US while regaining power. Because they believe that they are so smart, it will be easy for them to fix all the damage they have done, once they are in charge again.

Repair?
These morlocks don't care what damage they do. They always believe they'll ber more sheep to fleece, more idiots to educate, more innocents to rob. How did they repair the damage they did after Vietnam? How did they repair the damage that Crater did?

These are Morelocks who have so long in the dark that they cannot stand the light of the truth. It would destroy them and their world. Hence they are Morlocks.

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