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I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Rules for Political Discourse

It’s always worthwhile to review the rules of political debate just to make sure that we’re not overstepping the bounds of propriety. After all, as the Commander-in-Chief helpfully reminded us just recently, there is a "difference between responsible and irresponsible debate" and we must "demand a debate that brings credit to our democracy -- not comfort to our adversaries." With that admonition in mind, let’s take a look at how these standards play out.

The Great Outrage among Bush followers these last couple of weeks is that Harry Belafonte called George Bush the "greatest terrorist." This is an example of "irresponsible" debate which fails to "bring credit to our democracy," but rather, brings "comfort to our adversaries."

Thus, we have learned that Belafonte’s comments constitute "sabotage and treachery," and they show that he is "demented." Good people everywhere must shun and stigmatize Belafonte, and it is evidence of great societal corruption that he is invited to speak on college campuses. As one patriotic commentator noted, Belafonte’s comment "sounds to me like giving 'aid and comfort' to the enemy. Yes, folks, I'm talking about the "t" word: treason" (emphasis in original). Accordingly, it would be best if Belafonte just renounces his American citizenship and stays in Venezuela with Hugo Chavez, where he belongs.

So just to recap: it renders someone a despicable untouchable loon if they call George Bush a terrorist. Now let’s look at some of the things we have learned in the recent past about Democrats.

We know that, when it comes to Iraq and the fight against terrorism, former President Jimmy Carter is "on the other side" (that would be the side of the terrorists). And how about DNC Chair Howard Dean? He’s a complete "traitor" who, according to Ronald Reagan’s son, "should be arrested and hung for treason or put in a hole until the end of the Iraq War."

Jay Rockefeller? Guilty of treason. How about Dick Durbin? According to Karl Rove, he's on the side of the terrorists, a total traitor. John Kerry? Yawn. Need you even ask? A real traitor to his country, and guilty of treason.

And then, of course, we just spent this last weekend hearing from countless pundits and "journalists" that Democrats sound so very much like the mass murdering Unprecedentedly Evil Terrorist Osama bin Laden -- so much so that it seems clear that bin Laden is getting his talking points from Dean, Kerry and the New York Times.

So let’s review: It is a despicable act of deranged hatred to call George Bush a "terrorist." But it is perfectly acceptable, even common, to accuse Bush's political opponents of being traitors, committing treason, being on "the other side" (i.e., with the terrorists), and pronouncing that they should hang. And there’s one last rule you don’t want to forget about. It’s from Newt Gingrich, announced on Hannity & Colmes:

"I think it's quite clear as you point out, Sean, that from this tape, that bin Laden and his lieutenants are monitoring the American news media, they're monitoring public opinion polling, and I suspect they take a great deal of comfort when they see people attacking United States policies."

So, according to Newt, anyone who is "attacking United States policies" -- what we in the United States used to call "criticizing the Government" -- is now guilty of giving "a great deal of comfort" to Al Qaeda.

These rules seem very fair and evenly applied and I think we owe it to the country to be a little more diligent in complying with them. After all, if we don’t stop with all of this criticism of the Commander-in-Chief, we might lose our freedoms.

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