What Hath Liberals Wrought?

What hath liberals wrought? Here are two scary examples.

Former CIA director Michael Hayden and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey examine how Barry is returning us to the timid intelligence gathering that produced 9/11:

The Obama administration has declassified and released opinions of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) given in 2005 and earlier that analyze the legality of interrogation techniques authorized for use by the CIA. Those techniques were applied only when expressly permitted by the director, and are described in these opinions in detail, along with their limits and the safeguards applied to them.

The release of these opinions was unnecessary as a legal matter, and is unsound as a matter of policy. Its effect will be to invite the kind of institutional timidity and fear of recrimination that weakened intelligence gathering in the past, and that we came sorely to regret on Sept. 11, 2001…

The effect of this disclosure on the morale and effectiveness of many in the intelligence community is not hard to predict. Those charged with the responsibility of gathering potentially lifesaving information from unwilling captives are now told essentially that any legal opinion they get as to the lawfulness of their activity is only as durable as political fashion permits. Even with a seemingly binding opinion in hand, which future CIA operations personnel would take the risk? There would be no wink, no nod, no handshake that would convince them that legal guidance is durable. Any president who wants to apply such techniques without such a binding and durable legal opinion had better be prepared to apply them himself.

Beyond that, anyone in government who seeks an opinion from the [Office of Legal Counsel] as to the propriety of any action, or who authors an opinion for the OLC, is on notice henceforth that such a request for advice, and the advice itself, is now more likely than before to be subject after the fact to public and partisan criticism. It is hard to see how that will promote candor either from those who should be encouraged to ask for advice before they act, or from those who must give it.

In his book “The Terror Presidency,” Jack Goldsmith describes the phenomenon we are now experiencing, and its inevitable effect, referring to what he calls “cycles of timidity and aggression” that have weakened intelligence gathering in the past. Politicians pressure the intelligence community to push to the legal limit, and then cast accusations when aggressiveness goes out of style, thereby encouraging risk aversion, and then, as occurred in the wake of 9/11, criticizing the intelligence community for feckless timidity. He calls these cycles “a terrible problem for our national security.” Indeed they are, and the precipitous release of these OLC opinions simply makes the problem worse.

And Caitlin Flanagan on the lessons of Columbine:

William Dean Howells observed that at the theater Americans want a tragedy with a happy ending. But in life we are made of sterner stuff and demand from tragedy only this: a lesson.

That the mass killing at Columbine High School a decade ago — it was on April 20, 1999, that Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered 13 and wounded 23 — could offer us more than sorrow and outrage has been an article of faith since the nation first learned of the crime. The exact lesson, however, has proved elusive, and the search has seemed obdurately focused on the obscure or the strange: the trenchcoats; the question of social isolation; the possibility that jocks and cheerleaders might be so nasty to an outsider that they could render him into a sociopath.

Apparently, the thing to do was to look not at the largest questions posed by the incident but rather at its particulars and to adopt a “zero tolerance” policy toward any behavior that seemed to mimic them. The result was a longish, culturally embarrassing interlude when kindergartners could get tossed out of school for bringing a nail clipper in a backpack. We began to look like a nation of adults who were terrified of our smallest children.

The one aspect of Columbine that seemed unworthy of examination — when it came to pondering the policy changes that might actually make American schools safer places — was the fact that the two killers had a long track record of doing exactly what deeply disturbed teenage boys have been doing since time out of mind: getting in trouble — lots of it — with authority…

At the turn of the last century, the U.S. — a nation of laws, of course, and a nation with an ever-evolving sense of sympathy for children and teenagers — decided that sending youthful offenders to adult prison was a grotesque form of punishment, and so were born the juvenile code and the juvenile court system. With these innovations came something that was still talked about in tones of dread and excitement when I was a girl in the 1960s and ’70s. “He’s going to end up in reform school,” we would say of a bully or a fighter, some luckless child of a rotten drunk or a mean single mother. One way or another, it came to pass: Boys disappeared and were not missed.

Due process? Who knew, who cared? All we knew was that the funny-looking, heavy-set boy who used to smash kids’ heads into the porcelain backsplash at the drinking fountain of Cragmont School was no more a menace in our lives.

Harsh fate that would send a boy away for no greater crime than the accident of his birth! Homeward the course of juvenile justice went, reinventing the system in yet another iteration, the one in which Harris and Klebold were allowed to stay put in their own houses and at Columbine, during the very time that they were not only committing petty thefts and cursing out their teachers but also communicating openly about their plans for mayhem.

Today only the most incorrigible young offenders are removed from their guardians’ care and forced to live and study in correctional facilities. Furthermore, to expel a student in most public school districts is an arduous business. An expulsion hearing is required, and parents may choose to appeal the decision, a process that rains down a world of legal woe on whatever teachers and administrators have been involved in the action. Many expulsions, moreover, constitute a strange reinterpretation of the very word: They are time-limited and include within them plans for re-enrollment.

It is, of course, the responsibility of the state to provide some sort of education to all its children under the age of 18, and so for a host of legal, moral and economic reasons we end up with an ugly truth about our nation’s schools: By design, they contain within them — right alongside the good kids who are getting an education and running the yearbook and student government — kids whose criminal rehabilitation is supposedly being conducted simultaneously with their academic instruction.

As someone who taught school for a decade and who has now been a mother for about as long, I can tell you that — when it comes to children — the rigid exercise of “due process” in matters of correction and discipline makes for high comedy at best and shared tragedy at worst. Someone needs to stand apart from children and decide what is best for them and for those around them. When it comes to matters of state-ordered punishment, someone needs to stand apart from their parents, too, and make the necessary decisions. It’s a complete bummer; I will grant you that.

Who would possibly be willing to side not with the students of an institution — those fun-loving creatures of the now — but with the institution itself, a place ostensibly devoted, above all else, to the well-being of its population? I’ll tell you who: adults. Remember them?

In my teaching days, no single document shaped my thinking as much as Flannery O’Connor’s 1963 essay called “Total Effect and the Eighth Grade.” It concerned neither guns nor violence, neither cliques nor experimental approaches to the treatment of adolescent depression. It was about . . . books. In defending the teaching of the great works of the Western canon rather than those of the modern day (which kids far preferred), she said something wise, the sort of thing an adult might say. She said that the whims and preferences of children should always, always be sublimated to the sense and judgment of their elders.

“And what if the student finds this is not to his taste?” O’Connor asked. “Well that is regrettable. Most regrettable. His taste should not be consulted; it is being formed.”

And Christine Flowers, writing in the Philadelphia Daily News, on the idiotic reasoning of Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg:

Last Friday, the Supreme Court’s sole female justice told a group of budding lawyers in Ohio that U.S. courts, including her own, should refer to foreign law when deciding cases and that any squeamishness about that was just a “passing phase.”

The internationalists cheered.

They’ve been lobbying for one big international tribunal of love and mutual respect for years.

And they’ve criticized those who think U.S. courts should stick to U.S. laws and our U.S. Constitution (which Madame Justice Ginsburg swore to uphold and defend as part of her oath of office) as jingoistic and narrow-minded. Listen, they say, it’s a big world out there, and I guess we can learn a lot from our brothers and sisters in, say, Canada, where they sneer at the First Amendment, or in Saudi Arabia, which sanctions marriage between 8-year-old girls and middle-aged men.

Ginsburg apparently doesn’t believe in the supremacy of the Constitution because to do so would apparently be arrogant. She implied that the failure to consider the reasoning of foreign judges diminished the importance of the Supreme Court, although she didn’t give details other than to say that the Canadian high court is “cited more widely abroad than the U.S. Supreme Court,” and she made the telling observation that “you will not be listened to if you don’t listen to others.”

Ah, so that’s it. We have to play nice in the international legal sandbox so that other people will pay us some respect. Ginsburg and her legal eagles apparently believe that the law is like a popularity contest and the system with the most friends wins.

It’s frightening that a sitting justice would actually say that we should be worried about how other countries feel about our administration of justice.

They had no hand in crafting our Constitution. They are neither bound by our laws, nor have they sent men and women to die in defense of our laws.

And they’re not alone. President Obama’s nominee for top legal dog at the State Department, Harold Koh, believes that Islamic sharia law could be applied in American jurisdictions in “appropriate cases.” Koh, ex-dean at Yale law, is presumably a very smart man. But there is something frighteningly wrong about someone who thinks that there are “appropriate cases” in which a system of laws that regularly dehumanizes women and relegates them to a lower caste could have any relevance whatsoever in this country. (It’s one thing for the archbishop of Canterbury to have those crazy thoughts. It’s quite another for a Yalie to agree.)

I’ve handled asylum cases for women who have been persecuted under sharia, and I’d love to see how Ginsburg or Koh would look them in the face and say, “We think it’s important to understand the legal justification for the mutilation of your vagina or why you risked stoning because of that unfortunate disagreement with your husband.”

You might say that Ginsburg and her like-minded legal circle would never sanction violence against women. True. But trying to incorporate foreign legal principles into our system at the whim of the legal elites in some misguided attempt to be liked in foreign legal circles sends the message that we don’t believe that our system merits any special regard. And that’s a very dangerous sort of modesty because if the democratic processes of this country don’t shape our legal system, it basically answers to no one but some internationalist Ivy Leaguers in Washington…

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