Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers, is a columnist living in Colorado. Email: SpeaktoJay@aol.com.
Ideology and personal tastes often can speak louder in politics than evidence or logic, and, yes, that's as true for one side as it is for another. But it has been especially pronounced among leftists in recent years, as many found little that George W. Bush did as president that they did not abhor, even as they can find little in Barack Obama they do not very nearly worship.
There have been pronounced exceptions, but the left has mainly defended even the most obvious transgressions, such as lassitude on our imperiling debt. And even when Obama was doing something comparable to what they used to denounce as Hitlerian in Bush, the comments about similar Obama acts have mainly been by way of making excuses.
That may be changing some now in the wake of a leaked administration paper on drones, but let's recall how the left reacted to the Patriot Act under Bush. It was the end of the Constitution, that's what, only somehow, when it was extended with Obama's approving signature, it was a yawn at worst.
Let's next consider rendition, the practice of imprisoning captured terrorists in other countries where all kinds of nasty things might happen to them. When the Bush administration trod in that territory, liberals were aghast. Obama has also done it, and many liberals have managed to look the other way.
Liberals then proudly tell us Obama did away with waterboarding and other tough interrogating techniques the Bush administration permitted, such as keeping terrorist suspects up all night and flooding their ears with loud music.
Keep in mind that proven waterboarding was done by the United States to just three captives and was permitted only after Justice Department rulings that it fell short of torture. In fact, we have inflicted a version of the procedure on our own soldiers to prepare them for what they could conceivably face someday. And even though there have been historical assertions that hurtful questioning has never produced honest answers, we have assurances from a reliable source that these techniques were a factor in the finding and killing of Osama bin Laden. That source is Obama's retiring secretary of defense, Leon Panetta.
Now we come to the use of unmanned, remote-controlled drones to kill enemies in foreign lands. The Bush administration employed the weaponry, but its use has been greatly increased by the Obama administration. Sometimes civilians are killed, including children, and critics contend we thereby fuel anti-U.S. hatred that further jeopardizes our security. Obama, who has involved himself personally in attacks, according to a New York Times account citing witnesses, has also used drones to kill U.S. citizens who have been convicted of no crime.
Innocent lives lost
All of this has been known for some time with few loudly voiced complaints. Lately, though, the press got hold of a White House paper showing that the administration was quite possibly far more lax in its criteria for killing than had been assumed, meaning that there were increased chances of snuffing out the lives of innocent people posing no threat to us.
A number of previously quiet liberals have come to life over this issue, as they should. For that matter, it was proper to ask hard questions about Bush's interrogation techniques; few would agree that anything goes, even on a battlefield in the midst of combat.
At the same time, we need to remember there is no way to conduct war without horror and we are involved in a terrible, asymmetric conflict of a kind we have not faced before. Safeguarding our nation demands new ways of thinking, such as recognizing that the most fearsome combatants often operate in civilian settings.
There is meanwhile an old way of thinking we should cling to. We should understand that our democracy is ill-served by blatantly hypocritical judgments bowing to political predispositions while ignoring the obvious.