Jonah, the Clinton hypocrisy grates more than usual here. One of my last cases as a federal prosecutor was a lengthy litigation to keep Weather Undergrounder Susan Rosenberg in prison serving her richly deserved 58-year sentence, imposed by a federal judge in New Jersey. (She was claiming that she was lawlessly being denied parole because of New York conduct — the infamous Brinks robbery — for which she had never been convicted.) After I finally convinced the New York federal judge not to disturb the sentence, Clinton pardoned Rosenberg and another Weather terrorists, Linda Evans (serving a 40-year sentence), on his last day in office. To get a sense of what a Clinton/Obama web this is, Bill Ayers’ wife, Bernadine Dohrn, did several months in the slammer for contempt of a grand jury subpoena — she was refusing to testify about … Susan Rosenberg.
But I want to weigh in on your more important point — this notion that we are not supposed to concern ourselves with someone’s radical politics as long as she (at least ostensibly) rejects violence and agrees to work through a political process.
This is not just a Democrat problem. Not to beat a dead horse, but it is a big part of the Bush administration’s democracy project (of which McCain is clearly a fan). Our general approach to radical Islam has boiled down to: as long as you are not actively blowing up a building, at least today, you are a moderate; as long as you pledge (however convincingly) to work through a political process, we’re not going to trouble you with a lot of questions about what you hope to achieve through that process. This is how we end up in the sack with Fatah, Dawa and the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, to name just a few. This elevation of process over substance is how we delude ourselves into thinking we can usefully negotiate with Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong Il.
Now, to be clear, I am not insensitive to the differences here. Under the guise of “social justice,” lefty radicals are trying to transform America because they despise it; today’s Wilsonians, by contrast, recognize America’s greatness and want only to remake other parts of the world in the dubious conviction that the project will make America safer. That is not a small difference. But we are undermining our ability to condemn radicalism here when we wink at it as viable politics elsewhere.