The Republican "national security" debate sponsored by Neocon Central the American Enterprise Institute and the Heritage Foundation captured perfectly the intellectual and political bankruptcy of the Republican party when it comes to foreign policy. Here the party’s pandering demagoguery, reflexive ultra-nationalism, and visceral hostility to liberty was on full display in all its exhibitionistic belligerence. It was only natural, therefore, that the first question was asked by disgraced former US Attorney General Edwin Meese, who was forced to resign as Reagan’s AG as a result of his complicity in obtaining big defense contracts for a phony "minority"-owned company. Here is his "question":
"At least 42 terrorist attacks aimed at the United States have been thwarted since 9/11. Tools like the Patriot Act have been instrumental in finding and stopping terrorists. Shouldn’t we have a long range extension of the investigative powers contained in that act so that our law enforcement officers can have the tools that they need?"
What a set up for Newt Gingrich! And he certainly took advantage of it: naturally he was given the first answer –with poor Herman Cain having outlived his usefulness and been unceremoniously dumped, Newt is the "mainstream" media’s new darling. That’s because he can always be counted on to reiterate the neocons’ favorite talking points, and on this occasion he did not disappoint:
"BLITZER: Speaker Gingrich, only this weekend there was an alleged terror plot uncovered in New York City. What do you think?
"GINGRICH: Well, I think that Attorney General Meese has raised a key point, and the key distinction for the American people to recognize is the difference between national security requirements and criminal law requirements.
"I think it’s desperately important that we preserve your right to be innocent until proven guilty, if it’s a matter of criminal law. But if you’re trying to find somebody who may have a nuclear weapon that they are trying to bring into an American city, I think you want to use every tool that you can possibly use to gather the intelligence.
"The Patriot Act has clearly been a key part of that. And I think looking at it carefully and extending it and building an honest understanding that all of us will be in danger for the rest of our lives. This is not going to end in the short run. And we need to be prepared to protect ourselves from those who, if they could, would not just kill us individually, but would take out entire cities."
In less than 200 words, Newt managed the wholesale bifurcation of American law into two parallel tracks, one that acknowledges how "desperately important" it is to "preserve your right to be innocent until proven guilty," and the other which recognizes no such necessity – and, in fact, negates it.
Oh, isn’t he glib – isn’t he clever? With a mere sleight of hand he has obviated the Constitution and upended the legal and moral traditions of two hundred years. What an achievement! He smiles a greasy, easy grin, well-pleased with himself. The audience dutifully applauds.