When I first saw this last week, my first reaction was a steady stream of profanity. It may be the most repulsive political ad I've ever seen. Cheney, Kristol and the gang aren't attacking specific people or policies per se. They are attacking the very notions of justice, of due process, of a fair legal system, and the rule of law. Everyone is entitled to a fair trial. (Actual terrorists tend to get convicted in fair trials.) A fair judicial system is one of the defining features of civilization.
This isn't some closely-held secret. It's basic civics.
Liz Cheney, Kristol and the rest are instead pushing a radical, bullying authoritarianism identical to that of any dictator. They are calling these lawyers the "Al Qaeda Seven," implying that they are in league with terrorists if not terrorists themselves. And put this ad in the context of their many other statements. Instead of a fair justice system, they insist that the government can merely accuse someone of being a terrorist, never provide proof, hold that person indefinitely, and never put him or her on trial. That person cannot see all of the charges against him or her. Nor should s/he have a lawyer, and any lawyer who provides the required representation is a traitor. Oh, and the government can torture and abuse prisoners as well – and false confessions obtained through torture can be used as proof against a prisoner.
Their attack ad is absolutely reprehensible, and should be widely and loudly condemned. But in a sense, this assault is nothing new. Cheney is really only articulating the core dogma of the Bush administration. Far right zealots have expressed the same basic views since 9/11, if not before. This is merely one of the most blatant, hostile, high-profile expressions of their doctrine of absolute, dictatorial, unaccountable power. And as many people have noted, these attacks are pure McCarthyism.
Many people have also noted that John Adams defended the British soldiers put on trial for the Boston Massacre (its anniversary was last week), and was proud to have done so. Upholding the rule of law and giving fair trials is the very essence of patriotism.
I was disgusted but unsurprised to see that CNN ran with Liz Cheney's "Department of Jihad" characterization and treated it seriously (CNN did offer an apology later, if a weak one). I was glad to see some conservative lawyers not only speak out, but draft a formal condemnation. Even David Rivkin and Lee Casey signed it, and they've zealously defended nearly every abuse of the Bush administration. (I've got a long, older post on Rivkin here.) When even leading torture apologists like Rivkin break with you, you know you've gone way too far.
Keep America Safe's key goals seem to have been "Keep Dick Cheney out of jail," "Start more wars," and "Fear-monger to raise cash." It looks like they've decided to add "Finish the destruction of the Constitution started under Bush/Cheney." You'd think that Liz Cheney would be ecstatic that to date, her dad Dick has dodged going on trial for war crimes. Why push their luck? And what would be worse, that Liz Cheney and Bill Kristol actually believe this vile bullshit they're shilling - or that they're cynically fear-mongering? I think they're simultaneously hacks and zealots, happy to lie but also true believers in some truly radical views. Regardless, they're claiming a fair judicial system is dangerous, and thus attacking the very foundations of civilization.
I've seen many good pieces on this despicable ad, so here's a round-up:
Spencer Ackerman: "Latest Conservative Smear Calls Justice Dept. Lawyers Terror-Sympathizers" (2/26/10)
Glenn Greenwald: "Salon Radio: The lawyers smeared by Liz Cheney" (3/3/10)
Digby: "Tearing Off Pieces" (3/4/10)
Dahlia Lithwick: "More Than Words: Liz Cheney says terrorists have no rights. Also, you're a terrorist." (3/5/10)
Greenwald: "The WP's employment of a fear-mongering smear artist" (3/5/10)
Crooks and Liars: "CNN Only Too Happy To Parrot Liz Cheney's Scare Tactics and Fear Mongering" (3/5/10)
Greenwald: "The full-scale collapse: From Murrow to Blitzer" (3/4/10)
C&L: "Blitzer Apologizes for "Any Confusion Caused" by "Department of Jihad?" Chryon" (3/5/10)
C&L: Rachel Maddow follow-up (3/6/10)
C&L: "Countdown: Conservatives Outraged With Liz Cheney's Fear Mongering" (3/6/10)
Balkinization: "John Adams Meets Joe McCarthy" (3/6/10)
Balkinization: "Have You No Sense of Decency?" (3/6/10)
Scott Horton: "Incompetent McCarthyism and Shared Belief" (3/8/10)
"Countdown: Ken Starr decries CheneyCo's shameless attacks on detainee defense attorneys" (3/8/10)
Digby: "Stale Cupcakes" (3/9/10)
C&L: "And You Thought We Left The Monarchy In England? Liz Cheney's Thinking of Running for Office" (3/9/10)
If, like me, you could use a laugh after all of Cheney's McCarthyism, here ya go. Of all the responses to the attack ad, so far Rachel Maddow's is the funniest:
Maddow's done other pieces since (one's linked in the roundup above). And of course all this all continues. Predictably, torture apologist Marc Thiessen wrote an op-ed defending Cheney's McCarthyism. I'd like to delve into it in greater detail, but Steve Benen links some of the better debunks, and Scott Horton and David Luban also have good pieces on it.