Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen defended the witch hunt against Justice Department attorneys who previously represented terror suspects and other detainees, falsely suggesting that criticism of the witch hunt has come only from progressives, when, in fact, conservatives have also condemned the attacks.
As Glenn Greenwald and Jamison Foser have pointed out, The Washington Post suggested that right-wing attacks on Department of Justice attorneys who have represented terror suspects are based on "ignorance," "fear," and "hysteria" and published an op-ed calling the attacks "shameful," even though Bill Kristol, one of the leading proponents of the smear, writes a regular column for the Post.
But Kristol is not alone.
Marc Thiessen, a weekly columnist for the Post has not only attacked the DOJ attorneys who represented terror suspects, but has also attacked "senior partners" at law firms in which other lawyers took on such cases for allowing "work on behalf of America's terrorist enemies" to continue.
From a chapter titled "Double Agents" in Thiessen's book, Courting Disaster: How the CIA Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack:
Some argue that, with the exception of [Neal] Katyal, none of these lawyers directly represented terrorists, so they should not be held responsible for the actions of other lawyers in their firms. That might be true for a junior partner. But the fact is, [Department of Justice officials Eric] Holder, [Lanny] Breuer, [David] Ogden, [Thomas] Perrelli, and [Tony] West were all senior partners at their firms at the time when these firms were deciding whether or not to accept terrorist clients. They had the power to say no and stop this work on behalf of America's terrorist enemies. They chose not to do so.
I spoke to several partners at major law firms that have chosen not to represent terrorists. None wanted to criticize their competitors on the record, but all agreed that the work would not have gone forward without the approval of Holder and his colleagues. One attorney explained that law firms pride themselves on collegiality, and if one or more partners expressed opposition, that is sufficient to kill a pro bono project. He said the reason his firm does not represent terrorists is because partners like him spoke up and made clear they opposed the firm doing such work. If such opposition could stop this work at his firm, this lawyer says, Holder could have done the same at Covington. "Eric Holder's law firm did this with the full blessing and support of Eric Holder," he says. "He's responsible for it." [Pages 257-58]
At the end of the chapter, Thiessen claimed that the attorneys who took on the cases of terror "are aiding and abetting America's enemies," which is pretty close to the constitutional definition of treason -- providing "aid and comfort" to America's enemies:
The attorneys fighting these cases -- some intentionally, others unwittingly -- are practicing what has come to be called "lawfare." They are aiding and abetting America's enemies by filing lawsuits on their behalf, and turning U.S. courtrooms into a new battlefield in the war on terror. These lawsuits tie our government in knots and make it more difficult for our military and intelligence officials to defend our country from terrorist dangers. And they undermine America's moral authority by echoing the enemy's propaganda that America systematically abuses human rights. [Page 274]
Regarding the attacks against lawyers who represented terror suspects, the Post March 5 editorial stated:
It is important to remember that no less an authority than the Supreme Court ruled that those held at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, must be allowed to challenge their detentions in a U.S. court. It is exceedingly difficult to exercise that right meaningfully without the help of a lawyer. It is also worth remembering that the Bush administration wanted to try some Guantanamo detainees in military commissions -- a forum in which a defendant is guaranteed legal representation. Even so, it took courage for attorneys to stand up in the midst of understandable societal rage to protect the rights of those accused of terrorism. Advocates knew that ignorance and fear would too often cloud reason. They knew that this hysteria made their work on these cases all the more important. The video from Keep America Safe proves they were right.
The Post also published a March 5 op-ed by Walter Dellinger, former head of DOJ's office of legal counsel and former acting Solicitor General stating that "[t]he only word that can do justice to the personal attacks on these fine lawyers -- and on the integrity of our legal system -- is shameful. Shameful." From Dellinger's op-ed:
It never occurred to me on the day that Defense Department lawyer Rebecca Snyder and Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler of the Navy appeared in my law firm's offices to ask for our assistance in carrying out their duties as military defense lawyers that the young lawyer who worked with me on that matter would be publicly attacked for having done so. And yet this week that lawyer and eight other Justice Department attorneys have been attacked in a video released by a group called Keep America Safe (whose board members include William Kristol and Elizabeth Cheney) for having provided legal assistance to detainees before joining the department. The video questions their loyalty to the United States, asking: "DOJ: Department of Jihad?" and "Who are these government officials? ... Whose values do they share?"
That those in question would have their patriotism, loyalty and values attacked by reputable public figures such as Elizabeth Cheney and journalists such as Kristol is as depressing a public episode as I have witnessed in many years. What has become of our civic life in America? The only word that can do justice to the personal attacks on these fine lawyers -- and on the integrity of our legal system -- is shameful. Shameful.
From The New York Times' February 26 Beliefs column headlined "Defender of Waterboarding Hears From Critics":
There's nothing unusual about partisans of the Bush administration defending waterboarding as a useful form of "enhanced interrogation." Others will go even further, calling the technique "torture," but saying it may be a necessary evil. What is a bit unusual is the case being made by Marc A. Thiessen, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush.
In "Courting Disaster: How the C.I.A. Kept America Safe and How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack," Mr. Thiessen, a practicing Roman Catholic, says that waterboarding suspected terrorists was not only useful and desirable, but permitted by the teachings of the Catholic Church.
This does not square, to put it mildly, with the common understanding of Catholic teaching. In the past month, Catholic bloggers and writers from across the political spectrum have united to attack his views, and to defend their own: that waterboarding is torture, and that Roman Catholics are not supposed to do it.
The belief that waterboarding is morally or physically violent seems to unite all the writers who have criticized Mr. Thiessen, a group that includes the conservative blogger Conor Friedersdorf; Mark Shea, who edits the Web portal Catholic Exchange; and Joe Carter, who blogs for First Things, a magazine popular with conservative Catholics.
In the past week, media figures have routinely referred to a potential effort to pass a health care reform bill with a majority vote as an effort to "ram," "jam," or "cram" a bill through Congress, a characterization pushed by Republican politicians. The reconciliation process, which enables the Senate to pass legislation with 51 votes, has been used repeatedly by Republicans, including to pass major changes to health care laws.
In attacking President Obama's recent health care reform guidelines, right-wing media have leveled numerous criticisms that are at odds with their earlier attacks against Democratic health care reform legislation. This follows repeated efforts by conservative media figures to shift their criticism of health care reform by changing the definitions of "death panels" and the public option.
Yesterday, I noted that former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen, in his current gig as a columnist for the Washington Post, crossed the line between making an argument and arguing dishonestly. Today, another Bush-speechwriter-turned-Post-columnist, Michael Gerson, followed in Thiessen's footsteps.
a reconciliation strategy would both insult House and Senate Republicans and motivate them for future fights. The minority would not only be defeated on health reform but its rights would be permanently diminished -- a development that would certainly be turned against Democrats when they lose their majority.
But Gerson includes no explanation of how the use of reconciliation would "insult" Republicans, much less how it would cause the rights of the minority to be "permanently diminished."
This is because there can be no such explanation. See, reconciliation has been used in the past, by Democrats and by Republicans. It has been used for health care. It has been used for health care by Republicans to enact the agenda of a Republican president for whom Michael Gerson worked at the time.
Let me say that again: Reconciliation was used to enact changes to health care laws when Michael Gerson was writing speeches for President George W. Bush. For Gerson to now assert that using reconciliation to pass changes to health care laws would "insult" congressional Republicans and diminish their rights is simply not honest.
On consecutive days, two Washington Post columnists who previously served as speechwriters for former President Bush took to the Post's op-ed page to attack the use of reconciliation for health care reform. In fact, major parts of Bush's agenda were passed through the reconciliation process, and that process has often been used to pass health care related measures.
In anticipation of the February 25 bipartisan health care summit, numerous conservative commentators have warned that the summit is a "trap" or a "setup" for the GOP.
In his new book, Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen justifies waterboarding by falsely claiming that the CIA adhered to limits on the technique described in a 2002 Department of Justice memorandum. In fact, the CIA inspector general found that one of the "interrogators/psychologists" acknowledged that in order to make the interrogation "more poignant," CIA interrogators at one location did not abide by the memo's limits.
Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen could hardly have written a more dishonest attack on President Obama if that had been his primary goal.
Thiessen writes that "Obama is the real obstructionist at his health-care summit" because Obama has no interest in "bipartisan compromise." Thiessen bases his assertion that Obama is uninterested in compromise on the fact that no Republicans have supported Democratic health care proposals. That's a questionable claim on its face; it's downright absurd if you know that Obama's health care proposal -- like the bills passed in both the House and the Senate -- already contain significant concessions to the GOP. Not just concessions like "not being single-payer" and "not including a public option" -- though those are significant concessions Democrats have made. But the bills also include ideas Republicans have long supported. As Politico recently put it:
the pillars of the Senate bill resemble proposals that have been embraced by the GOP, most notably in a proposal offered last year by former Senate Majority Leaders Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and Howard Baker (R-Tenn.) and by Republicans during the 1993-94 health care reform debate. Major elements are also remarkably similar to a plan put forward by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.).
the Senate bill allows families and businesses to purchase insurance across state lines, a favorite policy proposal of the right. ... Republicans say states should decide how they want to do reform. But the Senate bill already goes a step in that direction.
So, Democrats have included Republican ideas, but Republicans refuse to support the bill anyway, leading Marc Thiessen to write that Democrats are uninterested in bipartisan compromise.
Next, Thiessen writes: "The president's real objective is to paint GOP leaders as obstructionists -- so that Democrats have an excuse to ram through their health-care legislation using extraordinary parliamentary procedures."
By "extraordinary parliamentary procedures," Thiessen presumably means "reconciliation." And he presumably knows reconciliation isn't all that "extraordinary" -- it was used to pass significant portions of President Bush's agenda. Thiessen presumably knows that because Thiessen worked as a speechwriter in the Bush White House.
Then Thiessen calls Obama "dishonest" and points to the fact that Senate Democrats worked with President Bush as evidence that Barack Obama hasn't reached out to Republicans. But, again, the simple fact is that Obama and Democrats did reach out. They did so with last year's stimulus package, which, in an effort to win GOP votes, was smaller and heavier on tax cuts than liberals wanted. They did so with the health care legislation. When Side A makes significant concessions to win the support of Side B, but Side B withholds their support anyway, Side A can hardly be blamed for a refusal to compromise.
I'm sure Thiessen and his boss Fred Hiatt would say Thiessen is simply expressing an opinion, which is the whole point of being an opinion columnist. But Thiessen isn't doing so honestly -- not even remotely. Thiessen could make the case that the concessions Democrats have made are insufficient, or that the inclusion of Republican ideas in the various health care bills do not do enough to outweigh the ideas they think are bad. But he doesn't do that. He simply pretends there were no such concessions, that there are no Republican ideas in the bill. That isn't honest.
But it's what we have come to expect from Fred Hiatt's Washington Post.
From a piece by Thiessen that appeared in the February 23 print edition of The Washington Post headlined "Obama is the real obstructionist at his health-care summit":
Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) says of this week's bipartisan health-care summit: "Sounds like the Democrats spell summit: S-E-T-U-P." He's right -- the Blair House summit is a trap. If the objective really was to produce bipartisan compromise, Obama would not be using legislation crafted in a backroom that got virtually no Republican votes as the basis for the discussions. Nor would his secretary of health and human services have declared last week that the White House is still willing to fight for a public option, a proposal that died because of bipartisan opposition in the Senate.
The president's real objective is to paint GOP leaders as obstructionists -- so that Democrats have an excuse to ram through their health-care legislation using extraordinary parliamentary procedures
In his new book, recently-hired Washington Post columnist Marc A. Thiessen justifies the CIA's interrogation techniques by falsely claiming: "In the eight years since the CIA began interrogating captured terrorists, al Qaeda has not succeeded in launching one single attack on the homeland or American interests abroad." In fact, Al Qaeda has repeatedly attacked U.S. interests abroad, including a U.S. consulate, a U.S. embassy, and a Marriot hotel.
In light of The Washington Post's decision to hire former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen as a weekly columnist, Media Matters for America has documented several false, dubious, or outrageous claims Thiessen has made about national security and terrorism. In addition, Thiessen has repeatedly baselessly attacked the Obama administration over its handling of national security and terrorism.