This has been an insane last couple of days for conservative national security posturing. First, after weeks of hysterical screaming that Mirandizing Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab prevents us from getting intelligence out of him, it turns out that the behavioral-scientific approaching of playing on his sense of familial shame — not, say, waterboarding him — gets him to talk. (Previously, recall, “behavioral science” in interrogation meant the Mitchell-Jessen approach of torturing someone.) Then Mitch McConnell gives a fact-averse speech blasting Obama’s approach to counterterrorism. John Brennan points out that he told GOP leaders on Christmas Day that the FBI had Abdulmutallab in custody and they didn’t issue a word of protest, and they reply that they had no idea that basic FBI procedure is to Mirandize suspects in their custody. Newt Gingrich, attempting to get in on the action, forgets that Mirandized shoebomber Richard Reid is not in fact an American and then replies to his mistake with a nonsequitur about Jose Padilla.
Very little of whatever Keep America Safe can throw at the Obama administration has survived the Christmas-Day pushback. Even Dennis Blair’s epic Congressional fail hasn’t damaged the administration. Instead, it’s plainly and thoroughly refuted most every conservative national-security article of faith. Mirandizing terrorists inhibits intelligence collection? Wrong. Charging a terrorist in criminal court is a danger? Hundreds have been convicted that way. Non-torturous methods of interrogation fail? They work better. Call the Obama team pussies and they’ll back down? They’ll smack the tartar off your teeth. The public will rally around Republicans if they just ignorantly yell OMG TERRORISM loud enough? They’ll go to the other guy.
There’s just nothing left. Guantanamo, I guess. But there, if they thought about it, they would be happy with Obama’s approach. Instead, the GOP, for the first time in decades, is completely discredited on national security, without any credible spokespeople, after the public remembers the experience of how Republicans started an unnecessary war at the expense of a necessary one. And now it’s all exposed.
Update: Uncle Jimbo points out on email that the polling shows that the public favors military tribunals for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, which is fair enough. Still, I’m impressed that Obama hasn’t backed down from criminal trials. Perhaps he ultimately will, but no evidence so far supports that prospect. … I should also add, in the same spirit, that torturing people still polls robustly, as illegal as it may be.
Update 2: As luck would have it, I’ll be on the Rachel Maddow Show tonight around 9:45 9:25 EST to talk about all this.