It took a liberal to remind me of the left’s preferred tactic — re-shaping a lost argument for the sake of public consumption
In the wee hours of this morning, a good friend of mine made a comment on the piece which involved Keith Olbermann’s interview of a popular right-leaning radio talk show host who underwent waterboarding and deemed it torture.
I’ve known Brad for almost 25 years now. In my opinion, he and his wonderful wife Katherine (who also leaves comments here from time to time), are anomalies among those on the American political left — not only are they both absolutely brilliant, but they also possess that quality so lacking among fellow liberals: common sense. Talking with them over lunch or dinner, something made more difficult due to miles between us and, more recently, a three-year-old girl who would rather talk about ponies and pickles than the proliferation of nuclear materials, is always a pleasure. Brad knew me when I was a liberal Democrat, and I believe that my leap to the right provides the cognitive scientist in him with rabid amusement, as he has made a similar–though not hardly as stark–move to the left. A lower-tier Ivy League education will do that to a man. (Inside joke.)
In the case of his comment on waterboarding, Brad reminded me of an overarching theme we’ve been seeing from people on the left, particularly in the mainstream press. Not only did he directly countermand this recent trend, but I’m not so certain that he realized he was doing it.
To sum things up, he took what was a wandering argument–people, including myself, have been guilty of looking at the issue in terms of whether or not waterboarding constitutes “torture”–and brought it back to exactly where the argument should be: whether or not we should be waterboarding terrorists. He may have meant something slightly different, but what he wrote nevertheless brought me back on task.
Of course, his answer to whether or not we should be waterboarding terrorists will likely differ from yours and from mine, but he’s entitled to that opinion. The issue here is how the left, in addressing everything from single controversial issues to an entire election, continues to fight their counterparts on the right by re-shaping the argument in question. Brad’s comment reminded me of that.
For example, as the topic of what to do with the Guantanamo Bay detainees dominated the news cycles last week, if you looked closely you’d have seen that the issue suddenly became about escape. Gone were the other concerns regarding the transfer of detainees into stateside correctional facilities; everybody, including President Obama at his speech in the National Archives, where he symbolically stood between the American people and the U.S. Constitution, wanted to talk about escape: “Nobody has ever escaped from one of our federal ‘supermax’ prisons,” the president said.
And everybody was buying into it. Pundits on Fox News Channel were warning that “there’s always a first time for everything.” From other conservative Web sites–not this one–you’d have thought that the topic was a belated review of Clint Eastwood’s Escape From Alcatraz all over again. I, for one, found myself screaming at my television.
The Gitmo controversy has nothing to do with escape. Nothing. The question as to reconciling the president’s reckless executive order–ordering the closure of the facility at Guantanamo Bay without having any sort of plan as to its terrorist inhabitants–is about conferring rights reserved for American citizens onto foreign murderers who want to kill American citizens. It’s about indoctrination, how having bona fide, unnecessarily imported jihadist in American prisons could have adverse effects elsewhere. Yet nobody wanted to talk about the real issues. Even when news broke that law enforcement officials had broken up a terrorist plan in New York, an attack which was to be carried out by Americans who had been indoctrinated and force-fed jihadist ideals while in prison, everyone still wanted to talk about escape.
Another example would be the nomination and likely confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor. This week, we’re getting a crash course lesson in how the mainstream press plans to guide the American public and, more importantly, the Republican Party through the process of confirming a Supreme Court Justice. So far, they’ve framed this as a battle for Hispanic votes, when in reality the Democrats never seemed concerned about losing Hispanic or black votes during their brutal opposition to Miguel Estrada or Justice Clarence Thomas, and they’ve framed it as a litmus test on how those who dare oppose Sotomayor’s confirmation are simply revealing their own anti-immigrant and anti-Hispanic bias, when it reality the only racist on record distinguishing between white and Latina judges in terms of competence is Sonia Sotomayor.
This is a hallmark tactic used by the left — if you cannot win a particular argument, change the terms. The Democrats know that the majority of Americans will never side with them on whether or not we should waterboard terrorists, so they make the argument about whether or not waterboarding is “torture.” The Democrats know that the majority of Americans will never want murderous terrorists to corrupt prison populations or be acquitted on evidentiary and procedural anomalies designed to protect American defendants, so they make the argument about whether or not those murderous terrorists could escape from federal “supermax” prisons. The Democrats know that the majority of Americans feel that judges should place objectivity before ethnicity, that “social justice” has no place in an impartial courtroom, and so they make the argument about personal background and identity politics.
It is our job to flood everyday conversations with the right argument, and force those on the opposite side of the proverbial aisle to argue the pertinent issues rather than the peripheral ones. That’s what I like about my left-leaning, longtime friends like Brad — they know their philosophy, they know their values, and they never shrink away from an argument. If they’re right, they’re right and I’ll admit it. If they’re wrong (as usual), more often than not they’ll do the same. Golly, I wish I could say the same thing about their counterparts on Capitol Hill.