Erik Larson

Feb 9, 2010

But Bush Did It

“But Bush did it, too.” This is effectively Obama’s defense of his Administration’s treatment of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (to Katie Couric, in an interview he did just before the Super Bowl) after Abdulmutallab’s detainment following the failed Northwest airlines terror plot. His “defense”, of course, is perfectly reasonable only if the Bush administration policies he referred to were substantively right . Hmm.

At issue was the “Mirandizing” of Abdulmutallab 50 minutes after his detainment; reading him his Miranda rights meant then that he had a right to remain silent. For obvious reasons this hasn’t gone unnoticed by the rest of us. But Obama’s recent strategem of pointing out that “Hey, Bush did it with Richard Reid (the “Shoe Bomber”)” perhaps salvages the battle at the expense of jeopardizing the Left’s War: Bush was supposed to be dead wrong on the merits of homeland security policy and terrorism (and stupid and incompetent when explaining his policies and carrying them out).

Obama, for his part, is in effect vindicating the Bush years by defending his actions on terrorism in terms of their fit with the former Administration. This is evident also in the recent “walk back” of Holder’s decision to try KSM in New York City, a decision that now mayor Bloomberg has openly challenged. The decidedly non-Bush-like suggestion to give KSM a public, civilian trial with all its trappings (lawyers, media spotlight, et cetera) is now in the midst of dying the death of a thousand qualifications, the most onerous perhaps Obama’s own suggestion that the trial would guarantee a guilty verdict. This assertion, while ostensibly aimed at making a nervous public feel better about the whole business, is in fact most damaging of all: not only does a guaranteed guilty verdict make a mockery of the notion of a “fair trial”, it highlights the fact that, even were KSM to be found innocent by the machinations of his legal team, the Administration would be forced if by nothing else than public outrage to promptly throw him back in military confinement. In which case, why bother with the trial?

Ah yes, military confinement. AKA Guantanamo Bay, AKA the place that will never close. Which brings us to our last bit of Bush-had-it-right-on-terror. Obama’s deadline to close Gitmo is long past, and it’s becoming increasingly apparent that its existence, while perhaps “grotesque” to the Left (apologies to A Few Good Men fans), is perhaps necessary. Begin with the Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) attitude that has settled on members of Congress(including among Democrats, ostensibly in favor of atoning for these sins of the Bush administration). Add to it the sudden reticence of the European Left to embrace sending them over the Atlantic. End with the observation that, again, the Gitmo solution, while certainly not perfect, has a certain logic to it that becomes apparent to all but the most Chomskian of critics in proportion to the serious consideration of alternatives.

So, we now see that Bush wasn’t so dumb after all. Or maybe Cheney wasn’t so evil. They can’t be, you see. They’re now Obama’s defense, and as the Gitmo and other issues persist, they’re now his policies.