Ranting Ratigan Disparages US Justice System as More Abusive Than Chinese

Every so often, MSNBC anchor Dylan Ratigan goes on a rhetorical bender that stupefies his guests and defies logic.

On his eponymous program today, Ratigan latched onto conflicting reports concerning the treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning, who was arrested under suspicion of illegally downloading classified military documents and funneling them to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, to assert that the American justice system is akin to that of the Communist Chinese.

"Think about that in the context of 243 days in confinement, 23 hour-a-day lockdown, sleep deprivation," bemoaned Ratigan. "And you think China's bad?"

Ratigan also made repeated references to Guantanamo Bay, implying that Manning is being treated like an enemy combatant.

 "So basically if you download the wrong information, Jimmy, we can hold you, not try you, put you in solitary for 243 days, arbitrarily put you on suicide watch," complained Ratigan. "It sounds more like Guantanamo than the Uniform Code of Military Conduct [sic] to me."

Jimmy Williams, a liberal lobbyist and frequent guest of the show, dismissed Ratigan's baseless accusations: "Well Guantanamo is the military, Dylan, and I hate to tell the American people and the folks that watch your show, but when you go into a court of law as a civilian versus a court of law in the military, they're not the same, they're not treated the same, and they shouldn't be the same."

The Citadel graduate's biting rebuke of the host's indefensible comparison sparked a heated exchange that culminated in Ratigan claiming that Williams was patronizing him.

"So you can pick somebody up, not charge them, tell the press they did something but not charge them with it and them put them in solitary and torture them," asserted Ratigan, despite lacking any evidence that the military has tortured Manning. "To suggest that this is how it is inside the military is a little bit insulting."

The skirmish ended with Williams ceding Ratigan almost no ground: "It may be insulting, but look you don't go into the military thinking you have the same rights as everybody else."

2011-01-25-MSNBC-DR-Ratigan3.jpgHaving failed to persuade Williams, Ratigan tried to woo Republican strategist Susan Del Percio to his side of the issue by restating the Gitmo comparison: "You've got the civilian code of conduct, you've got the Uniform Military Code of Conduct [sic] and then you have the Guantanamo Bay code of conduct, which is arbitrarily chosen by the political leadership."

"No but you are held to a higher standard when you go into the military," retorted Del Percio, echoing Williams's sentiments.

Earlier in the segment, even Karen Finney, a Democratic strategist who often agrees with Ratigan, rejected the host's conspiratorial theory.

"How does the president, the White House, the Pentagon respond to a country that treats someone the way they're treating Private Manning?" deplored Ratigan. "Uncharged, no trial, 240 days in solitary. How does this happen?"

"As I understand it, it is very different than the system would be if you or I were arrested for something," responded Finney. "There isn't a due process."

With all of his guests spurning the notion that the American justice system, one of the freest and fairest in the world, is in any way comparable to a Chinese system that systematically detains and tortures political dissidents, a defeated Ratigan tried to save face before abruptly ending the discussion.

"Hopefully I don't get put in solitary for talking about it," groused Ratigan. "I think you guys are just afraid they're coming for you next."

A transcript of the segment can be found below:

MSNBC
Dylan Ratigan
January 25, 2011

4:13 p.m. EST

DYLAN RATIGAN: Pentagon officials spoke to NBC News about Manning, the soldier accused of giving documents to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Here's what they had to say. They say they found no direct link at all between Manning and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. And they admitted that the decision to put him under suicide watch was a violation of procedure, but do deny that Manning is being mistreated or tortured in any way. But think about that in the context of 243 days in confinement, 23 hour-a-day lockdown, sleep deprivation. And you think China's bad?

Joining us now to talk about it, our E-Team, like the A-Team of course but better, Democratic strategist and MSNBC political analyst Karen Finney, Republican strategist Susan Del Percio, and our Washington insider Jimmy Williams. A pleasure to see all of you. Karen, I want to start with you. How does the president, the White House, the Pentagon respond to a country that treats someone the way they're treating Private Manning? Uncharged, no trial, 240 days in solitary. How does this happen?

KAREN FINNEY, Democratic strategist: Well, you know, unfortunately Dylan, as I understand, and Jimmy having gone to the Citadel would know a little better about me but he is under the auspices of military law. And as I understand it, it is very different than the system would be if you or I were arrested for something. There isn't a due process–as my mother used to say to me in my house.

RATIGAN: But there is a Uniform Code of Military Conduct. This does not appear to be that either.

FINNEY: Well but it appears, I mean, it sounds like they acknowledge yesterday that perhaps protocol was broken and hopefully they will rectify that. But I think part of the problem here, and I don't disagree with you and what you were saying in terms of the concern. At the same time, this is a very serious issue, this is top-secret information.

RATIGAN: But he hasn't been charged!

FINNEY: But what they were able to confirm though was that he downloaded information to his personal computer. That's an offense; you're not supposed to do that.

RATIGAN: So basically if you download the wrong information, Jimmy, we can hold you, not try you, put you in solitary for 243 days, arbitrarily put you on suicide watch. It sounds more like Guantanamo than the Uniform Code of Military Conduct to me.


JIMMY WILLIAMS, lobbyist: Well Guantanamo is the military, Dylan, and I hate to tell the American people and the folks that watch your show, but when you go into a court of law as a civilian versus a court of law in the military, they're not the same, they're not treated the same, and they shouldn't be the same. When you sign up for the military, you go in and you know it ain't a cakewalk. If he did what they say he did, despite the fact he hasn't been charged, if he did that, he broke the law. He broke the military law.

RATIGAN: But if he did what they say he did, why don't they charge him?

WILLIAMS: Because they don't have to, it's the military Dylan.

RATIGAN: So you can pick somebody up, not charge them, tell the press they did something but not charge them with it and them put them in solitary and torture them. My understanding is that every person who gets charged inside the Uniform Code of Military Conduct doesn't get treated anything like this, with all due respect. So to suggest that this is how it is inside the military is a little bit insulting.

WILLIAMS: It may be insulting, but look you don't go into the military thinking you have the same rights as everybody else. I'm sorry, I know it sounds cold hearted and mean and terrible but the military isn't exactly a cakewalk, it's called public service. And when you give up your life for public service. And that's just a fact.

RATIGAN: So do you agree with that, Susan? You've got the civilian code of conduct, you've got the Uniform Military Code of Conduct and then you have the Guantanamo Bay code of conduct, which is arbitrarily chosen by the political leadership. Is that basically our country?

SUSAN DEL PERCIO, Republican strategist: No but you are held to a higher standard when you go into the military.

RATIGAN: Then why don't they charge him?

DEL PERCIO: Because, frankly, it seems like they're trying to make the case of connecting him to WikiLeaks. And it's not so much they're questioning did he or did he not download the information, because that's a crime, and a serious one at that. But they're trying to nail down, if it did, how it happened, to WikiLeaks.

RATIGAN: Let's move along here. Hopefully I don't get put in solitary for talking about it. I think you guys are just afraid they're coming for you next.

--Alex Fitzsimmons is a News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.