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Memo: Remember When Dissent Was Patriotic?

4:22 PM, Feb 9, 2010 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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A memo being passed around by Capitol Hill Republicans:

Responding to continued criticism over the Administration’s mishandling of the Christmas Day bomber, John Brennan took to the USA Today to state that “Politically motivated criticism and unfounded fear-mongering only serve the goals of al-Qaeda.”  This sentence is just too rich for an Administration and its surrogates who:

 ·         made the same charge against the previous Administration in 2003, “If any Member of this Senate--Democrat or Republican--takes to the floor, questions this White House policy, raises any questions about the gathering of intelligence information, or the use of it, be prepared for the worst.  This White House is going to turn on you and attack you.  They are going to question your patriotism.” – Senator Durbin, 149 Cong. Rec. S9668, July 22, 2003.

 ·         said the previous Administration choose not to explain its national security policies by instead “attacking the patriotism of those who question them.” – Senator Kennedy, Sept. 22, 2003.

 ·         took to the House floor to say “patriotism is exhibited by my dissent.” – Rep. Jackson-Lee, 152 Cong. Rec. H4124, June 15, 2006.

·         called those who criticized President Bush’s policies in Iraq “real patriots.” – Keith Olbermann, July 19, 2007.

·         called a sitting President of the United States a traitor, saying “Traitors don’t get to question my patriotism.” – Bill Maher, March 25, 2007.

On December 18, 2007, Majority Leader Reid said on the floor, 153 Cong. Rec. S15852, “Before Democrats controlled the Congress, the Bush White house conducted the war with total impunity.  No dissent was tolerated.  The patriotism of those who raised questions was openly attacked.”  It is unclear whether the Majority Leader will remind the President’s homeland security advisor of this criticism. 

The opinion piece also presents a critical error, asserting that “There is little difference between military and civilian custody, other than an interrogator with a uniform.  The suspect gets access to a lawyer.”  An enemy combatant’s right to an attorney is far from clear.  To be sure, an enemy combatant has a right to counsel if he were charged in a military commission, but it is wholly unresolved what right to counsel, if any, an enemy combatant has beyond what this Administration would choose as a matter of policy to bestow upon the detainee, and when that right would attach, if it exists at all.

Honest question: We've heard much about how the Bush administration supposedly questioned the patriotism of Democrats, but what are the specific examples? Anything on par with Brennan's accusation that critics are serving "the goals of al Qaeda"? I honestly can't recall an example of a Bush national security official questioning the patriotism of Democrats, but if someone can prove otherwise, I'd be happy to set the record straight.

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