The New York Times published a scathing editorial Sunday condemning Americans who have the audacity to request that attorneys who represented terrorists not set national legal policy. The Times smeared them and their elected representatives as McCarthyites, and criticized them for noting that colossal conflict of interest.
"It is not the first time that the right has tried to distract Americans from the real issues surrounding detention policy by attacking lawyers," the Times states of controversy over Attorney General Eric Holder's reluctance to inform Congress who in the Justice Department has represented alleged terrorists, and in what capacity are they now serving.
But the left has done just that -- use nominees' records as means to block their appointments -- and the Times hasn't complained. So why the sudden outrage? Well, the paper's liberal editorial board doesn't mind when the left attacks. But when conservatives demand answers, they are evil McCarthyites on a political witch hunt.
Of course the Times uses nice-sounding terms like "democratic justice" to argue that detainees deserve the same rights as criminal defendants, conspicuously ignoring not only rationale to the contrary, but in fact the chief complaint of Holder's critics: people who argued for the release of individuals waging war on the United States are now in charge of prosecuting those same aggressors. Holder knows that the American people would not approve, so he has been stonewalling.
But the real dishonesty in the Times's complaints is the paper's glaring double standard on executive appointments. It seems that when nominees or appointees are criticized for some past position that the Times supports, the attacks are reminiscent of McCarthyism and designed to score "cheap political points."
But when the Times agrees with the attackers, well, this sort of outrage is noticeably absent.
Where was the paper's disdain for the ideological and political attacks on Carolyn Kuhl, President Bush's nominee to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals? As a 29-year-old lawyer with the Justice Department, Kuhl had urged the Attorney General to reverse an IRS decision denying tax-exempt status to Bob Jones University.
The Times doesn't like Bob Jones University, so there was no outrage over the use of Kuhl's stance on the issue to block her nomination.
Or what about William Myers, nominated to the same court -- why was the Times not outraged over his blocked nomination? Well, the Times didn't like him either because he was a former lobbyist for the mining industry.
The Times even made sure to quote Sen. Charles Schumer condemning Myers's record: ''Your record screams 'passionate advocate' and it doesn't even whisper 'impartial judge,' '' Schumer said. Why didn't this spark an angry editorial from the Times? Aren't lobbyists agents of our First Amendment right to redress, just as the "al Qaeda 7" are supposedly agents of the Sixth?
Where was the moral outrage when fine lawyers like John Yoo, Jay Bybee, David Addington, Jim Haynes, Steve Bradbury and others came under vicious personal attack? Their critics did not demand simple transparency; they demanded heads. They called these individuals "war criminals" and sought to have them fired, disbarred, impeached and even jailed. Where were the defenders of the "al-Qaeda seven" when a Spanish judge tried to indict the "Bush six"? Philippe Sands, author of the "Torture Team," crowed: "This is the end of these people's professional reputations!" I don't recall anyone accusing him of "shameful" personal attacks.
The standard today seems to be that you can say or do anything when it comes to the Bush lawyers who defended America against the terrorists. But if you publish an Internet ad or ask legitimate questions about Obama administration lawyers who defended America's terrorist enemies, you are engaged in a McCarthyite witch hunt.
Thiessen also dispels the Times's claims that alleged terrorists are entitled to legal defense of the same order as everyday criminals.
Some defenders say al-Qaeda lawyers are simply following a great American tradition, in which everyone gets a lawyer and their day in court. Not so, says Andy McCarthy, the former assistant U.S. attorney who put Omar Abdel Rahman, the "blind sheik," behind bars for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. "We need to be clear about what the American tradition is," McCarthy told me. "The Sixth Amendment guarantees the accused -- that means somebody who has been indicted or otherwise charged with a crime -- a right to counsel. But that right only exists if you are accused, which means you are someone who the government has brought into the civilian criminal justice system." The habeas lawyers were not doing their constitutional duty to defend unpopular criminal defendants. They were using the federal courts as a tool to undermine our military's ability to keep dangerous enemy combatants off the battlefield in a time of war.
If lawyers who once sought to free captured terrorists are now setting U.S. policy when it comes to the release of Guantanamo detainees, moving terrorists to the United States, trying senior al-Qaeda leaders in civilian courts, and whether to give captured terrorists Miranda rights, then, as Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) put it, the public has "a right to know who advises the attorney general and the president on these critical matters." Only when this information is public can members of Congress judge whether these individuals have properly recused themselves or whether they should be involved in detainee matters at all. The charge of McCarthyism is intended to intimidate those raising legitimate questions into silence. But asking such questions is not McCarthyism. It's oversight.
Of course for the Times, oversight was only important when Republicans were the ones setting policy.