- The Washington Times - Friday, January 29, 2010

OPINION/ANALYSIS:

So it’s full speed ahead, even if nobody knows where we’re going. We can console ourselves that if we’re lucky we might not get there. That’s the main point of President Obama’s eagerly awaited assessment of the State of the Union. He said, as all presidents do, that the state of the union is pretty good on his watch, considering that George W. Bush, his favorite bad boy, bequeathed a sad-sack union.

Mr. Obama now turns to jobs, jobs, jobs, and promises to do for job creation what he did for health care reform and what he’s doing to protect us from terror catastrophe. Which may not be enough, but he’s doing a bang-up job of protecting the rights of terrorists.

The president displayed an unusual array of friends and enemies. He lectured the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, six of whom were seated as a group on the front row, for their decision to uphold the First Amendment as it applies to corporations (which are comprised of individual citizens). No one can remember when a president ever breached manners and protocol in such a breathtaking way. When the president inaccurately asserted that the court had “reversed a century of law,” Associate Justice Samuel Alito was captured on camera mouthing the words “not true,” which is apparently the judicial way of saying “you lie!” But Mr. Obama is a onetime law professor and it’s possible that his lecture was kindly intended to fill in the gaps of the legal knowledge of the learned justices seated before him. Professors are always eager to display what they know, even if what they know isn’t so. We should give the president the benefit of the doubt, even if the stoic justices clearly did not.

Eric Holder, his attorney general also seated among house seats, appeared to be having a high old time, laughing and smiling and basking in the synthetic admiration that high government officials are accustomed to. Mr. Holder is the author of the remarkable decision to grant Miranda rights to the man who tried to celebrate Christmas by blowing up an airliner over Detroit. (Who says radical Muslims have no respect for the holidays of other people’s religions?)

President Obama boasted of how much better he is at fighting terrorism than George W. was: “In the last year, hundreds of al Qaeda’s fighters and affiliates, including many senior leaders, have been captured or killed, far more than in 2008.” Since neither the Bush nor the Obama administration has published body counts (that’s so Vietnam War), it’s a claim that even the Associated Press concedes is impossible to verify.

What is easy to verify is how soft the Obama administration continues to be on terrorists. No waterboarding (not even when a grubby bewhiskered terrorist clearly needs a bath), no harsh questioning. No fair treating such a soldier of Allah like FDR was willing to treat a soldier of the Nazis or a Shinto warrior during World War II.

It’s not fashionable in certain circles to notice this, but we can be sure the Obama treatment of terrorists is taken into account in other places. British intelligence officials say that over the past week an “unusually high number” of prospective evil-doers on the airlines’ no-fly list have tried to board airliners bound for the United States. As a consequence, the London government has raised the assessment of the terror threat from “severe,” which means an attack is reckoned “highly likely,” to “critical,” which means an attack is “imminent.”

The London Daily Mirror quotes British security sources that an Egyptian man tried to board an American Airlines flight last weekend in London bound for Miami. The next day a Saudi man tried to board a United Airlines flight from London to Chicago. They were sent home.

All this is enough to give Americans nightmares, particularly when it’s not at all clear that the high officials of the government are taking the threat as seriously as we expect them to. When Dennis Blair, the director of national intelligence, told Congress that it was a mistake that FBI field agents, and not specially trained interrogators (but not waterboarders), had questioned the Detroit bomber, he retreated later in the day to say his remarks were “misconstrued.” Since so much Washington talk is electronically recorded now, government officials who blurt out inconvenient truths no longer have the luxury of saying they were “misquoted.” Bureaucracy has become a dangerous game.

c Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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