I’m no fan of the “guilt by association” game. Just because someone knows someone who believes some bad things, that doesn’t mean that you agree with them across the board. Even if they’ve done bad things, associating with them doesn’t necessarily mean that you support what they did. It’s a foolish game, and often leads to madness.
On the other hand, there is a certain amount of truth to the old aphorism “lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.” Hanging around with people with bad habits or ideas or backgrounds is a warning sign — but choosing to associate with them over areas where they are so wrong, that’s just bad.
That’s why I read this American Thinker article (after prompting by my colleague Rick) with such interest. It’s clear that throughout his history, whenever Barack Obama was given a chance to take a stand against bad people, he instead turned a blind eye and used them for his own advantage. He only turned his back on them when they became more of a liability than an asset. William Ayers, Tony Rezko, Jeremiah Wright, Van Jones — the list is seemingly endless.
Then, as I’m bouncing that piece off the back of my mind, President Obama goes and does something that almost comes across as him saying “yeah, I read that article, too — it’s right, and I’m going to prove it once again.”
He gives a recess appointment to James Cole, naming him the #2 man in the Justice Department. Mr. Cole — a defense attorney specializing in white-collar crime — has long been a staunch advocate of the “law enforcement” model of fighting terrorists. In an op-ed piece published in Legal Times just two days short of the one-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, he said this about Attorney General John Ashcroft’s involvement in the War On Terror:
For all the rhetoric about war, the Sept. 11 attacks were criminal acts
of terrorism against a civilian population, much like the terrorist
acts of Timothy McVeigh in blowing up the federal building in Oklahoma
City, or of Omar Abdel-Rahman in the first effort to blow up the World
Trade Center. The criminals responsible for these horrible
acts were successfully tried and convicted under our criminal justice
system, without the need for special procedures that altered traditional
due process rights.
Our country has faced many forms of devastating crime, including the
scourge of the drug trade, the reign of organized crime, and countless
acts of rape, child abuse, and murder. The acts of Sept. 11 were
horrible, but so are these other things.
Treat 9/11 as any other crime — but bigger. Perhaps it might have escaped his notice, but the people who carried out the attacks were not that concerned about indictments or convictions or sentencing — they were dead. And those who coordinated and ordered the attacks were outside of our jurisdiction, in a country governed by a body we did not recognize and committed to protecting them. Indeed, the Taliban in Afghanistan embraced Cole’s approach — demanding that we submit requests for extradition, complete with irrefutable evidence of their guilt (“irrefutable” in their eyes — an impossible standard) before they’d consider cooperating with us.
I’ve said it before, but it obviously bears repeating: terrorists are not criminals. They commit crimes, but they do so incidentally towards their real goals. They don’t think like criminals, they don’t act like criminals, and the measures used to fight crime simply don’t work anywhere near as well.
Likewise, despite their use of weapons and tactics, terrorists are not soldiers. Terrorists combine elements of criminals and soldiers, taking the worst aspects of both, to achieve their ends.
To treat them as solely criminals or solely soldiers is doomed to failure. It takes both — military and judicial — to properly fight them.
There is a role for the Justice Department in the War on Terror. It has already done great things in uncovering plots and prosecuting Americans who’ve taken arms (or plotted to take arms) against the US. But they are not and can not be our only — or even main — line of defense.
That is the position Cole put forward on September 9, 2002. This is the position he has said or done nothing to repudiate. And this is the man President Obama just put in as the second-in-command at the Justice Department, where he will have tremendous power to make that philosophy into policy.
It’s also worth noting that Cole was put in as a recess appointment, bypassing the Senate’s power to “advise and consent” to such prominent nominations. That in and of itself is not damning, but it does speak volumes that Obama couldn’t wrangle 60 votes of support for Cole from a Senate that contained 57 Democrats and essentially Democratic independents (Sanders and Lieberman). All Obama had to do was find one or two Republicans he could sway that Cole wasn’t that bad, that he would actually do more good than harm in office, and he could have gotten him confirmed.
But that would only have been after Cole would have been called upon to explain just what he meant in that opinion piece, how much of it he still believes in, and what his current position is — all in direct relation to the job to which he had been nominated.
That Obama went to such lengths to put Cole in office leaves us with a very simple conclusion: Obama agrees with Cole, and wanted to put Cole in a position to make that our policy.
If it’s true that you can judge a man by the company he keeps, then it’s even more true that you can judge a man by those whom he chooses to place in positions of authority, and those whom he chooses to hold authority over him or who he chooses to follow. And in that light, President Obama has chosen very, very poorly indeed.