I had hoped that we might have had a clean campaign stressing the significant differences in views between Barack Obama and John McCain. I have criticized Democrats when they have concentrated on attacking brief quotes from McCain as opposed to a more through review of their differences. I’ve opposed attacking McCain on his quotation of being willing to remain in Iraq for one hundred years without including the full context. While McCain might not have been treated totally fairly in some of these attacks, the McCain campaign is now engaging in an attack upon Obama based upon distortions far worse than any of this.
Political Punch quotes from an interview with Barack Obama in which Obama discusses fighting terrorism while still respecting the Constitution:
TAPPER: Speaking of the Supreme Court, you applauded the decision that the Supreme Court made last week. The Bush administration says, no matter what people think about other programs, other policies they’ve initiated, there has not been a terrorist attack within the U.S. since 9/11. And they say the reason that is, is because of the domestic programs, many of which you opposed, the NSA surveillance program, Guantanamo Bay, and other programs. How do you know that they’re wrong? It’s not possible that they’re right?
OBAMA: Well, keep in mind I haven’t opposed, for example, the national security surveillance program, the NSA program. What I’ve said that we can do it within the constraints of our civil liberties and our Constitution.
TAPPER: They disagree, though.
OBAMA: Well, but the fact that they disagree does not mean that they’re right on this. What it means is, is that they have been willing to skirt basic protections that are in our Constitution, that our founders put in place.
And it is my firm belief that we can track terrorists, we can crack down on threats against the United States, but we can do so within the constraints of our Constitution. And there has been no evidence on their part that we can’t.
And, you know, let’s take the example of Guantanamo. What we know is that, in previous terrorist attacks — for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated.
And the fact that the administration has not tried to do that has created a situation where not only have we never actually put many of these folks on trial, but we have destroyed our credibility when it comes to rule of law all around the world, and given a huge boost to terrorist recruitment in countries that say, “Look, this is how the United States treats Muslims.”
So that, I think, is an example of something that was unnecessary. We could have done the exact same thing, but done it in a way that was consistent with our laws.
The McCain campaign is distorting this interview by falsely claiming that Obama believes “we should treat terrorists as nothing more than common criminals.” This is a total misrepresentation of what was said. Obama has taken a position similar to other Democrats in advocating fighting terrorism with a combination of military actions and use of law enforcement, while respecting the Constitution. This is a principle which has been discussed since the founding of our nation, such as when Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” This does not mean that he considers terrorists to be nothing more than common criminals.
Law enforcement has been responsible for many of the successes against terrorism, as I’ve previously discussed here, here, here, and here. This has been discussed in previous posts as this dishonest attack on Obama is just a retread of the same dishonest attack used by George Bush against John Kerry. If John McCain desires to show that he is not George Bush he must refrain from engaging in this type of dishonest Bush-style politics.