It should embarrass the American traditional media industry when a liberal British newspaper does a far better job of covering domestic news than they can be bothered to muster. Yet, such is the case:
Eric Holder argued that using lethal military force against an American in his home country would be legal and justified in an “extraordinary circumstance” comparable to the September 11 terrorist attacks.
“The president could conceivably have no choice but to authorise the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland,” Mr Holder said.
His statement was described as “more than frightening” by Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, who had demanded to know the Obama administration’s position on the subject.
Couple of thoughts, one specific and one overall. First, the specific observation. Early in its first term, the Obama administration was hellbent for leather to bring Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, he of Al Qaeda, 9/11 and Daniel Pearl murder infamy, to New York for a civilian trial in lieu of the military court in Guantanamo for which he had originally been slotted. Eventually it begrudgingly changed its mind and consigned Mohammed to a military tribunal at Guantanamo while administration officials blasted Congress for imposing roadblocks to their original plan. All in the name of fairness, due process and “see we’re not like them”-ism; never mind they guaranteed conviction and execution which seems somewhat contrary to the standard notion of what constitutes a fair trial (but I digress). The administration is now taking another shot at this with Osama Bin Laden’s son-in-law. Meanwhile, it took a Rand Paul filibuster to get the administration’s written declaration that it did not have legal authority to summarily use drones to kill an American citizen not engaged in combat against America while they were on American soil. In another meanwhile, debate still rages as to whether the National Defense Reauthorization Act of 2012, signed into law by President Obama, permits the government to hold an American citizen indefinitely without trial. The 2013 edition of the bill has not lessened the argument. A side note to this is that much of the disagreement centers on the bill’s ambiguous language concerning whether it permits the aforementioned infinite detention. The bill is 681 pages long. You’d think with the trillions of dollars Washington spends each year, someone there would use some of that money to hire one or two people who can write in clear English. Apparently it’s not a priority.
Now, the more general observation which is derived from the above.
It is a dangerous thing to either deify or demonize a politician. To believe that someone in office can either do no wrong or no right is a fool’s paradise. Even as each of us has our own strengths and weaknesses, every politician will do those things with which we agree and that which we cannot abide. If we close our eyes to this, we close them very tightly.
Going silent when a favored political figure goes against our philosophy and platform should be an embarrassment. Do we select our elected leaders on deeds or personality cult status? We are immediate in lambasting those we generally oppose for any transgression perceived or real. Do we treat our side with the same level of critical analysis?
Even as it is nonsensical to classify a politician as all right or all wrong it is equally, if not more, nonsensical to cast one out of the kingdom with whom we almost always agree because they did one or two things we did not like. An example is how Rand Paul was heralded for his filibuster by many who earlier had told him to hit the highway when he voted to approve Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be the next Secretary of Defense.
For far too many, ideological purity trumps all. It is very easy to be a keyboard warrior pounding out thunderous denouncements of anyone and everyone who fails the least little litmus test. Actually being the newsmaker, the one who makes the speeches, writes the bills and casts the votes, is an entirely different matter. They know things we will never know, things that explain actions otherwise inexplicable. Plus, they have their own philosophy, practices and policies. No politician is under any obligation to follow our every whim. We can always vote them out if they are too far out of line.
We need to view politics and politicians with a wide angle lens, not a microscope. We need to consider their entire body of work, not cherrypick random instances and hold them up to be a body of proof. We need to be honest about them even as we need to be honest about ourselves and to each other. They will do things we like and things we loathe. Throwing them out for the least little transgression, or turning a blind eye when a preferred officeholder does something that makes our skin crawl, does neither them nor us any favors.
See the whole picture, and respond accordingly.