Sunday, January 08, 2006

The New Ad Hominem

I had hoped that with the plateauing of tempers in the torture debate would come the end of a particularly vacuous and sleazy technique of argumentation the Right has used rather liberally in discussing this issue. But as the FISA/NSA debate plods on, so does this cheap trick. I'm too tired tonight to fish out any of the many, many articles and blog posts of Republicans who have pushed their luck with it, but here's the script:

Civil Libertarian: Bush's affinity for secrecy is troubling. First the secret CIA torture prisons, now the news that Bush has all along been playing fast and loose with the law on wire-tapping and surveillance.

Conservative: We are talking about terrorists, damn you! How much of his finite time and energy should the president devote to ensuring that probable terrorists have their day in court?

How does anyone expect progress in the war, let alone progress in legal understanding or other ostensibly less volatile issues, when all conservatives hear, when we libertarians say "the Constitution", is "Protect terrorists now!" Why is solving a basic legal problem such as the constitutional status of American citizens suspected of terrorist activities considered by conservatives tantamount to surrender? How much of the whole cloth of law and civil justice is completely subordinated to the imperative of combatting terror? And for how long?

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