By Robert Wallace
Something I’ve been meaning to do for a while is to play Devil’s Advocate to my own conservative perspectives as well as to some of the moves that I see Republicans making for politics rather than principle. So here goes with my first installment of Devil’s Advocate.
Gitmo and the Uyghurs
I believe that closing down camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay is an over-hyped issue. The questions of whom we deem to be an enemy combatant, how long we can detain them, and how effective we are at extracting information from them are all issues vital to national security.
Where we store them just doesn’t seem to matter much.
Despite this fact, the Republicans–no doubt sensing an opportunity to burnish their national security credentials and reinforce the stereotype that Democrats can’t be trusted with keeping the country safe–have been making a lot of noise over two non-issues.
First of all, they are pitching a fit over the possibility of moving some of the terrorists into Super Max facilities in the United States. What’s the big deal? It’s not like our Super Max facilities haven’t handled international terrorists before. The only possible advantage of Gitmo would be freedom to do enhanced interrogation and that’s already off the table.
But the issue that annoys me more than anything else is the fate of the Uyghurs. The Uyghur people are ethnical Turkic and live in the western Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China (aka East Turkestsan). Conservatives–including radio and television host Glenn Beck–have been hyperventilating about the government’s efforts to release the 17 Uyghurs at Gitmo (originally 22) into America. “Don’t release terrorists into the US!” they say.
The problem is this: the Uyghurs aren’t anti-American terrorists. If they have a beef with anyone, it’s with China. Obama didn’t decide to dub them non-combatants, the Pentagon did. Under Bush. As early as 2003, the Pentagon had figured out that these guys were no threat, and currently all but one of the 16 have been officially cleared for release. The only reason they are still in Gitmo is that we don’t know where to send them.
But when Obama tried to release them into a Uyghur community in Virginia, House Republican leaders blew a gasket and went on a tirade and acted as though bin Laden himself was being given a green card. I don’t know how dangerous the Uyghur detainees are, but I do know that this kind of hypocritical showboating irritates me. The fate of these 17 men should be decided rationally and with level heads. They shouldn’t be treated like some political football. I believe that Obama, by trying to release them quietly, was doing the right thing.
Chicken Little and American Debt
Staggering deficits, ballooning national debt, and printing money like a tinpot dictator are all serious economic concerns. But are they serious enough to justify bandying about the possibility of the dissolution of the American government due to a total collapse of the US dollar? Or is that sensationalist alarmism?
I believe the danger is real, but I’ve got a responsibility to pay attention to headlines like this one: Moody’s Affirms U.S. AAA Rating Despite Rising Debt. Otherwise, I’m selectively looking at only stories that confirm my negative expectations for liberal policies. Then again, to play devil’s advocate to the devil’s advocate (would that be angel’s advocate?) we’ve got headlines like this one: Roubini Says U.S. Economy May Dip Again Next Year.
Is Sotomayor Racist?
I’ll let Ilya Somin of the Volokh Conspiracy take care of this one. He revisits her infamous speech (where she said “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”), and addresses two questions raised by Sotomayor defenders:
- Is Sotomayor’s claim limited to discrimination cases?
- Did Sotomayor merely intend to recognize the impact of judges’ racial backgrounds on their decisions, without embracing it?
I agree with Somin’s responses:
- Even if we grant that, the statement is still “deeply problematic.”
- Not likely, based on the text.
Here’s the take-away from Somin:
It would be foolish to overlook the fact that many people, including serious commentators such as University of Texas lawprof Frank Cross and Reason’s Kerry Howley believe that the relevant part of the speech is actually innocuous. I can’t ignore the possibility that the speech is unclear, or that I just got it wrong. At this point, however, I still think that my initial interpretation was largely correct.
At a bare minimum, Republicans need to consider carefully the possibility that Obama made such an inflammatory nomination precisely to draw Republicans into a fight on uneven grounds. Just as we’re hypocritically trouncing Obama with the Uyghur issue (and damn the facts!), wealthy, white, male Republican senators run the risk of taking a drubbing for opposing the first Latina Supreme Court nominee (and damn the facts!)
Hence the ominous tone from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs (as reported by Politico, and referenced here yesterday evening):
I think it is probably important for anybody involved in this debate to be exceedingly careful with the way in which they’ve decided to describe different aspects of this impending confirmation.
Robert Wallace has been writing for America’s Right since December 2008.