Steve Benen examines the foolish inconsistency of the right-wing outrage over the plans to put terrorists on trial in civilian courts.
In 2002, the Bush Justice Department put Zacarias Moussaoui, an al Qaeda terrorist often referred to as the “20th 9/11 hijacker,” on trial in a federal court near D.C. No one, at the time, said then-President Bush was putting American lives at risk or undermining U.S. national security interests with the trial. Despite the conservative apoplexy of the last week, the Moussaoui trial was simply considered appropriate and routine.
Likewise, let’s not forget that Rudy Giuliani, one of the leading Republican attack dogs on President Obama, said he considered the Moussaoui trial a testament to the strength of our legal system and the American dedication to the “rule of law.” Giuliani called the verdict “a symbol of American justice,” and said the trial itself might improve America’s standing internationally. After Moussaoui was convicted by a civilian jury, the former mayor boasted, “America won tonight.”
This gets to the larger point that Jon Stewart made when he interviewed Lou Dobbs: if, as the right-wing talkers are proclaiming, Americans think the country is “out of control” and they’re worried about what’s going to happen next, why is it that all of this angst and concern is suddenly being expressed when we have a Democrat in the White House? Didn’t these issues exist before January 20, 2009?
Of course they did. But the reason the wingers didn’t shriek and carry on was because it was their guy who was in charge and to raise any concerns about how he was handling the job or question his motives was disloyal. And no matter how rotten the economy was, no matter how bureaucratic and expensive monopolized healthcare was, no matter badly the education system was crumbling before their eyes, no matter how incompetent the government was at providing disaster relief, and no matter how many people were dying in a war that had been instigated against a nation that never raised a hand to us, they were comfortable in the knowledge that the president was one of them. Even if he was comfortably numb, he was a known quantity, and everything was going to be all right — it’s Morning in America — so no matter how terrible reality was, it was better than the great unknown: that Other Guy who might not even have been born here will take away your guns, turn your kids gay in the military, and tear down the Jefferson Memorial to replace it with a mosque. Or something; that’s what they keep telling them on the radio, anyway.
What’s piteously ironic is that if we had had that kind of mindset in 1776, we’d still be a British colony. The teabaggers who think they’re emulating the Spirit of ’76 by demonstrating against the tyranny of our government are actually trying to maintain the status quo that we had when things were rotten. Picture Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck railing against the rabble-rousing John Adams, the agnostic Thomas Jefferson, and that secular humanist Benjamin Franklin who wanted to rebel against the system and replace it with a dangerously experimental form of democracy; talk about a radical socialist plot. No matter how insidiously oppressive the British colonial government was, it was still safe and secure as opposed to the scary adventure of going — literally and figuratively — into the wilderness of the New World or, at the very least, trying to make things better for everyone, not just the rich white guys who didn’t want to pay their taxes.
The worst thing that Barack Obama did was tell us that not only were things not all rosy, it was going to take some hard work and sacrifice to make things better. After eight years of an artificial high, reality is a terrible shock.