Debates are often a decent barometer of ideology, since candidates fall all over themselves to ingratiate themselves to their respective bases. Republicans have long since coalesced around a position of denying individuals accused of terrorism due process, but it's still remarkable to watch Republican presidential candidates reject due process out of hand.
Here's Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, disagreeing with Texas Rep. Ron Paul about trying suspected terrorists in civilian court:
Well, because, simply, terrorists who commit acts against United States citizens, people who are from foreign countries who do that, do not have any right on our -- under our Constitution to Miranda rights. We've also seen that Guantanamo Bay has yielded significant information. In fact, we've learned that that led to the capture and the killing of bin Laden.
This is a tool that we need to have in order to be able to prosecute the new type of war, the new type of warfare, and the new type of terrorists that this country is dealing with.
The Constitution grants rights to foreigners accused of crimes as well as citizens. On the battlefield different rules apply, but the question applied to anyone accused of terrorism in any context. The Fifth Amendment grants its due process rights to "persons" not "citizens," and whether it's out of jingoism or ignorance, someone who swears an oath to defend the Constitution should have some minimal understanding about what it says. The Bill of Rights is as much about granting individual rights to citizens as it is constraining what government can do.
Paul had a very reasonable response, which was that "She says that the terrorists don't deserve protection under our courts, but, therefore, a judgment has to be made. They're ruled a terrorist. Who rules them a terrorist? I thought our courts recognized that you had to be tried." Paul was booed.
Moderator Chris Wallace pivoted to Santorum, who once suggested that Attorney General Eric Holder was "eating mushrooms" for suggesting that trying terrorists in civilian court is effective. It's been far more effective than military commissions, leading to hundreds of convictions while military commissions have produced only a handful. And the Obama administration's dual forum policy is virtually identical to the last administration, so the statement itself was bizarre. Were John Ashcroft, Alberto Gonzales and Michael Mukasey eating mushrooms as well?
In fairness to Santorum, Wallace said that Santorum implied Eric Holder was "smoking mushrooms," which was Wallace's mistake. Let it be known that Santorum is well aware of how to properly consume psilocybin mushrooms. Santorum, who seemed to feel the other candidates were bogarting the stage during much of the debate, pivoted to Iran, where he complained that Mullahs oppress women and gays, but not in the civilized way in which he proposes doing here.
The fact that Paul could be literally booed for suggesting terrorists might need to be proven guilty shows that for the most part the Republican Party has signed onto former Reagan Attorney General Edwin Meese's formulation that "If a person is innocent of a crime, then he is not a suspect."
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