FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Today on PJTV: Wiretapping, O.J., and the 75th Anniversary of Prohibition’s End
I’ve been making once-or-twice-weekly appearances on PJTV, a new project of Pajamas Media, since shortly after the RNC convention in September, and wanted to try out a new idea: blogging a bit about the day’s show. If I’m boring you to death, well, click away now — you’ve been warned!
The majority of my appearances have been on the “Bloggers’ Whip,” which (usually) features a trio of bloggers from around the country weighing in on a trio of the day’s hot topics. Today I was on with the clean, articulate Stephen Green of Vodka Pundit, who is always a pleasure to appear with. You can see the segment here; below the fold is a quick rundown of today’s topics and my (mostly brief) take on them.
Topic 1: Wiretaps, Surveillance, and Obama–Oh My!: Stuart Taylor, Jr. wrote in today’s National Journal that Barack Obama “can give the Left what it wants and weaken national security, or he can listen to his more prudent advisors” and continue employing at least some of the national security measures put in place by President Bush (Taylor especially favors expanding data mining operations).
While Taylor has some ridiculous recommendations — like arbitrarily ordering an end to the use of all “harsh methods” in interrogations, release and compensate a number of Gitmo detainees (and try the rest in civilian courts or establish a “blue-ribbon, bipartisan commission to study all the available evidence” on them individually), his conclusion is not only spot-on, but it serves to negate the majority of the drivel he filled the preceding 80% of the article.
[Obama] should preserve the option of using coercive methods short of torture in especially urgent cases, if the attorney general personally approves. And he should ask himself: What would I want done if the CIA captures another terrorist mastermind such as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is determined not to talk but whose secrets — if extracted — might well save many lives?
If Obama strikes judicious balances between security and liberty, the ACLU and its allies may hysterically accuse him (as they would certainly accuse any Republican president) of trashing the Constitution. But the vast majority of voters understand that the Constitution is not a suicide pact.
Here’s my quick take: It’s clear that Barack Obama, after catering to the far-far-far-left in the Democratic primary, is adopting a far more realistically-based, pragmatic approach to the war on terror now that he’s the person with whom the buck will stop should there be another attack (or should there be setbacks overseas in the GWOT).
I think it likely that the President-elect will find it difficult to break from several Bush policies — like engaging in wiretapping, housing terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, or implementing/maintaining a policy of extraordinary rendition, for example — now that he’s actually gaining access to the intelligence and information that prompted Bush to enact these policies in the first place.
Topic 2: The OJ Sentencing!: Quite simply, it’s about time. Though he is legally not guilty of the 1993 murders of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown, very few informed individuals believe that he was wrongfully accused then; as a result, there’s a sense among a goodly number of Americans that, regardless the details of the current crime and conviction, O.J.’s sentence handed down today — which will require 7-10 years in prison before parole is available — is simply a case of karma coming back around for him.
In the courtroom today we saw a different O.J. than the ca. 1995 version, who was an arrogant celebrity who refused to participate in his own trial other than by struggling to don a glove. This time around, we saw a broken, unpopular (even hated), penniless, tearful O.J. who was quite literally begging for lenience from a judge who, after making sure to state that this sentence had nothing to do with 1995 and everything to do with the current conviction — refused to grant it.
Topic 3: The End of Prohibition (and Whether it’s Time to End the War on Drugs): The anniversary of Prohibition’s repeal is greeted every year with toasts, tasty beverages, and a reopening of the debate on whether the so-called “War on Drugs” should go the way of the 18th amendment.
The U.S.’s experience with the Constitutional banning of alcohol demonstrated that the arbitrary prohibition of an age-old substance used responsibly (and enjoyably) for millennia by adults simply wouldn’t work. This is no surprise, and a non-totalitarian state like the U.S. had no chance whatsoever of enforcing the amendment prohibiting sale and consumption of alcohol. Even the theocratic state of Iran, for example, is currently unable to prevent the distilling of (often dangerous) homemade liquor or the smuggling of alcohol across its northwestern border, where it is consumed with gusto by residents.
However, on drugs I diverge from the libertarian line (and from my PJTV colleague Steve Green). While the libertarian position is generally of the laissez faire variety — if folks want to do drugs in the privacy of their own homes, let ‘em! — I believe that view simply doesn’t comport with the real world. If drug users only ever affected themselves through their use and addiction, I would be 100% in favor of ending the absurdly-named (and less-than-perfectly-handled) “war on drugs” (something which, if its scope is intended to be global, we are badly losing in places like Afghanistan, where under a stripped-down NATO force’s watch opium poppy production has skyrocketed in Taliban-held areas).
However, the fact that hard drug use always ends up affecting others, whether as a result of impaired motor vehicle operation or crime committed to obtain more money to feed the user’s addiction — means that drugs must remain outlawed, and their distribution and use must remain prosecutable.
On the air tonight, Stephen got a quippy parting shot in after I made my case for the continued illegalization of drugs on the grounds that one true function of government is to protect the rights of its citizens (and drug users’ acts of violence and negligence nearly always ends up violating the rights of others), comparing my position to that of a pro-bad-mortgage-bailout supporter.
However, I credit Steve — who really is a sharp, quick-witted, and articulate guy –with being smart enough to see the night-and-day difference there. My position on the government’s prosecution of drug users and dealers is borne out of a desire to have my and others’ rights protected from violation by those who are stoned or desperate to get that way; bailing out those who hold bad mortgages, on the other hand, is forcibly taking money from myself and others to prevent a guilty third party from actually having to face the consequences of their own actions.
And that’s a wrap on today’s PJTV wrap-up!