Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Series of Unfortunate Events

While reading about and watching coverage of Sarah Palin's closing remarks at the Tea Party convention, I couldn't help but compare it to a car accident--you want to look away, but you can't.

While we all have the right--even duty--to criticize our leaders, I find it frustrating that she is speaks with vehemence about things of which she has little or no knowledge. Since it's now rumored that she may not have been the only one in the Governor's office, one must wonder how much of this opportunist's speech is her husband's thoughts.

Her speech was light on real details, quoting few specific policies or circumstances that she was criticizing. It's typical fiery rhetoric that panders to the audience. It's much easier to criticize than it is to offer solutions (look at this post, for example).

One of few specifics that she did mention was her perspective on trying the Christmas Day bomber in civilian courts. "Because that's not how radical Islamic extremists are looking at this. They know we're at war, and to win that war we need a commander in chief and not a professor of law standing at the lectern," she was quoted as saying.

She seems to have forgotten that under Bush, more than 200 alleged terrorists were tried and convicted in the civilian court system. Apparently, what was good for the goose isn't good for the gander. One interesting study from the Center for American Progress notes that terrorists tried in military tribunals get substantially less jail time.

In the case of Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's driver, a military tribunal punished Hamdan with 5 years in prison. He was credited for time served, and only was only imprisoned for an additional 5 months after his conviction. Salim Hamdan is now running around free in Yemen. Similar is the case of David Hicks, who was convicted in a military tribunal of material support for terrorism. He now lives in Australia--a free man.

Contrast those with terrorists charged in criminal court. Ali Asad Chandia, convicted in civil criminal courts for driving a member of Pakistani extremist group Lashkar-e-Taibi from Washington National Airport and helping him ship packages containing paintball equipment back to Pakistan, was punished with 15 years in prison in 2006. John Walker Lindh, the "American Taliban," is also still serving out his 20-year sentence for providing material support to terrorists and being involved in a terrorist army faction.

Palin also made remarks criticizing President Obama for his foreign policy, stating that his policies don't recognize the true threats America faces.

Perhaps her memory needs a little jogging. There were reports all over the news from 2004 through 2006 of military leaders in Iraq begging for more troops, more armor, more weapons, and more equipment in general. And, even in 2008, well after "the surge," Gen. David McKiernan had asked for up to three additional combat brigades in Afghanistan--a request that President Bush ignored. President Obama committed 17,000 troops within two months after taking office. And, when General Stanley McChrystal asked in the now-famous "McChrystal Report" for another infusion of Troops in October 2009, Obama started preparing the citizens of the US to send more of their sons and daughters. He answered by announcing in November that he would sending an additional 34,000 troops to fulfill the General's request. It would appear (to me, at least), that President Obama takes the requests seriously and processes them in a timely fashion.

As Brad Woodhouse from the DNC was quoted in the Washington Post, "No one should take national security advice seriously from a person who told the world in 2008 that her qualifications in this area were that she could see Russia from her home state." Well played.

While in one moment calling President Obama a "charismatic guy with a teleprompter," she misspoke when reading from her notes in saying that U.S. policies might discourage those who "see Alaska as a beacon of hope" (presumably instead of America). Pot? Kettle? At least the charismatic guy can read.

The principles advocating smaller, more nimble government seem like laudable goals, but champions of this effort leave a sour taste in my mouth. If people like *that* support efforts like these, what else is lurking under the covers that I should know about?

At the end of the day, I admire grass-roots movements like the Tea Party that want to put control back in the hands of the people. While I'm not a Tea Partier, I do respect the mobilization that they have achieved. Palin was quoted as saying that the Republican party would do well to try to absorb as much of the Tea Party movement as possible. I think it would be more profitable to capture the fire into your own organization as opposed to trying to dilute your core principles to get more votes.

Many Democrats who see the Tea Party as an almost-off-the-map right organization, would welcome Palin's call to action. The truth for any party is that the more mass media coverage these growing fringe groups get, the more folks are driven to the other side.

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