Running Against the Law

Flickr/kellynigro (Creative Commons).Richard Blumenthal, profile in courage. | Flickr/kellynigro (Creative Commons).

Firedoglake’s Gregg Levine has a good catch. Late last week, WNYC’s Brian Lehrer interviewed Richard Blumenthal, the Democratic Senate candidate in Connecticut (and very likely its next Senator). In the interview, without any real prompting, Blumenthal advocated sending Khalid Sheikh Mohamed to a military commission. Then, Blumenthal argued that “Christmas bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab should “probably not” be tried in federal court, either. As Levine notes, this is almost “completely counter” to the Obama administration’s position on those issues—Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, has announced that KSM will be tried in federal court, and no one in the Obama administration has ever advocated sending Abdulmutallab to a military tribunal.

That someone as purportedly liberal as Blumenthal, running in as blue of a state as Connecticut, won’t stand up for civilian law says that politicians probably see this is a losing issue. As Marcy Wheeler points out, they’re probably reading the polls:

Scott Brown’s pollster found that MA voters–voting to replace Ted Kennedy, of all people!!!–were more than twice as likely to support Brown for advocating against civilian law than Martha Coakley, the AG from the state next door to Blumenthal’s, who supported it. Scott Brown won at least partly because he trashed civilian law (he even went so far as to endorse water-boarding explicitly, in MA, and still won). 

And, as I also pointed out this week, in response to the lesson they took from the Brown win, Republicans are running hard against civilian law. “If this approach of putting these people in U.S. courts doesn’t sell in Massachusetts, I don’t know where it sells,” Mitch McConnell told someone at a Heritage event on February 3. He went on to say, “You can campaign on these issues anywhere in America.”

Now, I agree with Mitch McConnell on approximately nothing policy-wise. But he’s a smarter politician than a lot of guys on our side. And he, at least, believes “you can campaign” against civilian law “anywhere in the country.” Including Massachusetts. And, presumably, Connecticut.

Unfortunately for defenders of the Constitution and the rule of law, this sounds about right. As Marcy notes, despite Holder’s push to try KSM and Abdulmutallab, top members of the Obama administration’s political team seem to agree with Blumenthal. Those of us who want to see this country’s ideals upheld and its justice system defended are fighting an uphill battle. And if Blumenthal’s position is any indication of what’s to come, it’s a battle we’re losing.