The Corner

Sticks and Stones

We’ve been called war criminals by left-wing bloggers because we worked in the Bush administration and believe that President’s Bush’s national security policies kept the nation safe after 9/11. We don’t think we are, and we hope our friends and family don’t either, but we’re grownups and can handle name-calling. We’ve chosen to enter the political realm and the public debate, so that kind of thing sort of comes with the territory.

That’s one reason why we are having a hard time sympathizing with the lawyers at Justice who represented Guantanamo detainees or other suspected terrorists. They are not in cahoots with al-Qaeda. They should be allowed to work at the Department of Justice and advise Attorney General Eric Holder on detainee issues, assuming they comply with their ethical obligations to avoid conflicts of interest.

But they are political appointees hired in large measure because of their political viewpoints and policy preferences; they are not career officials for whom such considerations would be prohibited. So, forgive us if we think they should have a bit thicker skin. Like us, they chose to enter the fray. They are trained advocates who can defend themselves, and we are sure they are more than capable of withstanding a little bit of political heat.

Not to mention that many of them were more than happy to be identified by name in more friendly settings. Go online and you can find numerous press releases from their law firms, law schools, and advocacy centers celebrating the lawyers for their work on behalf of detainees.

Congress is entirely within its rights to know who advises the attorney general on matters of national security — not so these people can be driven out of government or to shut them up, but so the public knows who is helping shape policy. What legitimate grounds could there be in a democracy to hide from the public the identities or responsibilities of political appointees? Because Keep America Safe might put up another ad? Please.

We wrote a piece yesterday about Supreme Court briefs Holder signed onto in 2004 and 2005 supporting Jose Padilla. Holder failed to disclose these briefs as he was required to during his confirmation hearings, and the Department of Justice has admitted this. As we discussed, the briefs provide a roadmap to many of Holder’s current policies, but one of them is also notable for admitting there might be trade-offs between protecting the individual rights of suspected terrorists and protecting national security, which Holder denies (as does the president) now that he’s atop the Justice Department.

We expect most people would agree that Holder’s policy views are very relevant to how he operates as a public official. So are those of the political appointees he chooses to surround himself with. We suspect many of them believe, as Holder did in his brief, that there is some level of risk we should be willing to bear to protect the rights of suspected terrorists. There’s no reason to think that this is anything other than an honestly held view. But how much risk they are willing to take is a legitimate topic for public debate.

Most Popular

Culture

White Cats and Black Swans

Making a film of Cats is a bold endeavor — it is a musical with no real plot, based on T. S. Eliot’s idea of child-appropriate poems, and old Tom was a strange cat indeed. Casting Idris Elba as the criminal cat Macavity seems almost inevitable — he has always made a great gangster — but I think there was ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Other Case against Reparations

Reparations are an ethical disaster. Proceeding from a doctrine of collective guilt, they are the penalty for slavery and Jim Crow, sins of which few living Americans stand accused. An offense against common sense as well as morality, reparations would take from Bubba and give to Barack, never mind if the former ... Read More
Politics & Policy

May I See Your ID?

Identity is big these days, and probably all days: racial identity, ethnic identity, political identity, etc. Tribalism. It seems to be baked into the human cake. Only the consciously, persistently religious, or spiritual, transcend it, I suppose. (“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The White Ghetto

Editor's Note: In celebration of Kevin D. Williamson’s newest book, The Smallest Minority: Independent Thinking in the Age of Mob Politics, National Review is republishing some of our favorites of his from the past ten years. This article originally appeared in the December 16, 2013, issue of National ... Read More
Health Care

The Puzzling Problem of Vaping

San Francisco -- A 29-story office building at 123 Mission Street illustrates the policy puzzles that fester because of these facts: For centuries, tobacco has been a widely used, legal consumer good that does serious and often lethal harm when used as it is intended to be used. And its harmfulness has been a ... Read More