Andrew Sullivan on Rudy Giuliani

19 November 2007

Conservative (libertarian) commentator Andrew Sullivan has an excellent post at the Atlantic Monthly about this scary Rudy Giuliani quote:

"When you think of the debates just now on the confirmation of Mike Mukasey, when you think of the debates on the Patriot Act... Someone once said to me that, what they don't get about the Democrats, and even some Republicans that do this is, they're more concerned about rights for terrorists than the terrorists' wrongs. I mean, these granting of rights to criminals and terrorists, even when they're necessary, come with a price, a price at the other end of it. Even for the ones that are necessary, like, let's say, the Miranda ruling, it's one you agree with--there's a price for that. Maybe it's one worth paying.

The exclusionary rule, there's a big price for that: Criminals go free. They walk out of court. If you say, you know, no aggressive questioning, then we're not going to find out about situations. If you say no wiretapping, well, there'll be conversations going on, planning to bomb New York, or Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and you're not going to find out. And, when we draw these lines, at least let's be honest with people about the consequences of them. Let's not fool them into thinking that there is no consequences to this. People will say that aggressive questioning doesn't work. I, you know, I ... Honest answer to that is, it doesn't work all the time. Sometimes it does."

A couple of quick comments:
  1. Nobody is saying "no wiretapping." The argument is the the wiretapping should occur after obtaining a warrant with minimal oversight. Hell, you can even get them retroactively under FISA. The point is that you need to show some sort of reasonable suspicion / probable cause (like our Constitution's Fourth Amendment demands). To characterize this position as "no wiretapping" is to create a dishonest caricature of the position, and appeal to peoples' fears.
  2. "Aggressive questioning"? Seriously? I think that he's talking about the process of immersing a person in water, forcing water into his nose and mouth (or pouring water onto material placed over the face so that the liquid is inhaled or swallowed), such that the person being "aggressively questioned" (waterboarded) experiences "the sensations of drowning: struggle, panic, breath-holding, swallowing, vomiting, taking water into the lungs and, eventually, the same feeling of not being able to breathe that one experiences after being punched in the gut." The goal of "aggressive questioning" is to make the person suffer until they tell you what you want to hear.
  3. There is a very important distinction here between "terrorists" and "terror suspects." To say that people who care about due process and prohibiting torture (which he calls merely "aggressive questioning") are "more concerned about rights for terrorists than the terrorists' wrongs" and that they want to "grant[] rights to criminals and terrorists" is very dishonest.

Sullivan also makes this important point:
It seems to me that a vote for Giuliani is a vote for a police state that uses torture. I put it that bluntly because I don't see how granting one man the right to seize and torture anyone anywhere is anything else. Let's be honest about that reality too, shall we? And it's in that context that you have to understand Giuliani's fondness for a certain kind of judge. Giuliani will appoint judges who believe that the executive branch should be granted carte blanche in wartime - and wartime is now defined as permanent and includes as potential "enemy combatants" anyone in the US or anywhere else liable to seizure and "aggressive questioning" by cops or soldiers. Just think about the consequences of that for a while, even in the hands of a man or woman with a record of restraint and level-headedness and magnanimity. Now imagine those powers handed to someone with a long history of vindictiveness, over-reach, and hot-headedness.

Considering that Pat Robertson endorses Rudy Giuliani precisely because of the judges he promises to appoint, I really don't want this guy to get the appointment power.

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