WASHINGTON — The Obama administration said Sunday it would seek a law allowing investigators to interrogate terrorism suspects without informing them of their rights, as Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. flatly asserted that the defendant in the Times Square bombing attempt was trained by the Taliban in Pakistan.
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Memo to those Tea Party activists out there who've been howling about those liberal wusses in the Obama Justice Department who read Faisal Shahzad his Miranda rights: congratulations. You've just opened the door for a major new expansion of government power.
Having followed the Tea Party around on and off for a few months now it's been hard not to notice some of the contradictory messages emanating from the movement. You'll hear the same people who want to abolish the EPA complaining about the slow federal response to the Gulf oil spill, or the same people who are stocking up on guns to ward off the inevitable government assault on their property cheering for beefed-up drug enforcement laws and the no-knock search warrant.
The reason I really respect the Ron Paul people is that they're consistent on all of these things. If they don't want the government telling you you can't buy a gun, they also don't want the federal government telling you not to smoke weed or patronize a prostitute. Paul understands that you can't make appeals on general principle unless you actually believe in that principle across the board.
It seems to me that a huge problem that Americans on both sides of the aisle have is that they believe in personal freedom, but only for themselves; for the other guy they seem always to want a powerful and intrusive federal government. Red staters and blue staters are both equally guilty of this in my experience. You get conservatives asking for a federal ban on gay marriage and then in the same breath screaming that abortion should be a states-rights issue. And you get progressives who want to pass their own state-by-state medical marijuana laws clamoring for federal bans on handguns.
And… well, I'm digressing. The point is that this gesture by Eric Holder to drop to his knees and pray at the altar of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Sarah Palin is one of those things that both sides are going to end up seriously regretting.
For the Democrats, it will surely end up being one of the darker moments of the Obama presidency — not because it's necessarily so terribly meaningful (at least compared to ending Too-Big-to-Fail), but because it represents a new low on the utter-lack-of-balls front. The only reason we're even talking about this Miranda issue is because a bunch of morons on talk radio made a big fuss about it, and if our president is going to go sticking his thumbs into the constitution every time he can't take a few days of getting reamed by a bunch of overpaid media shills whose job it is to hate him no matter what he does, then we're all in a lot of trouble.
For the conservatives/Tea Partiers/Republicans (note that I have to make separate notations for each, since they're not all necessarily the same people anymore), this Miranda furor is yet another one of those humorously contradictory political campaigns of the "Keep the Guv'mint off my Medicare" variety that they're becoming known for. I'm beginning to think that if the Tea Party had a symbol, it shouldn't be the snake from that "Don't Tread on Me" flag, it should be a drooling yutz sticking a pencil in his own ear.
The reason for that is that the Tea Party angle on this Miranda business is that they want to strip terrorist suspects of liberal/civil rights-era protections, and they think that foregoing their Miranda rights is a good way to get there. What they don't get is that the inevitable consequence in this sort of meddling in constitutional theory is that we're going to carve out exceptions to constitutional applicability for certain classes of people. We're obviously not going to repeal the 5th amendment granting protection to American citizens against self-incrimination; and if we're not going to tinker with that basic right we all enjoy, then the only other way around it is to start tinkering with the concept of who's a citizen and who isn't.
We've already seen a more than unusually ridiculous illustration of this instinct, with all-century blowhard Joe Lieberman coming up with a wacko plan to strip terrorist suspects of their citizenship, a completely useless idea that wouldn't speed up interrogations one whit and in fact add nothing but another layer of bureaucracy to prosecutions of terrorism cases. This is an idea that has no practical application, but has a very broad theoretical consequence.
Basically we've opened the door for a discussion on whether or not it makes sense to selectively suspend the constitutional rights of Americans on a case-by-case basis. I'd like to see how the Tea Party responds to this concept the next time the ATF drives a tank into the compound of some group like the Michigan Militia. Given that they're part of a movement that is driven almost entirely by a paranoid fear of the exploding powers of government, it's bizarre to see these people signing on for the corruption of the 5th Amendment. But then again, no one ever accused these people of being smart.