You have to wonder who briefed the Chief Executive for his interview with NBC News. The White House’s resident admirer of Chairman Mao, Communications Director Anita Dunn, had already bailed out.
Whoever it was must have been inspired by watching Alice in Wonderland. Many of us remember Alice in Wonderland. If we didn’t read the Lewis Carroll classic, we at least watched the Disney cartoon version. (Some of us, parents of toddlers, may have watched it twenty times!) There’s a scene in this fantasy film that I couldn’t help thinking of when President Obama’s interview was broadcast during his trip to Asia.
Queen of Hearts: Now then, are you ready for your sentence?
Alice: But there has to be a verdict first.
Queen of Hearts: Sentence first! Verdict afterwards.
Alice: But that just isn’t the way.
Queen of Hearts: [shouting] All ways are…!
Alice: …your ways, your Majesty.
Now, this is the model of criminal justice that the President wants to showcase for the entire world. The U.S. is going to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a federal court in Manhattan. That’s the city where nearly 3,000 Americans were murdered by the 9/11 terrorists.
Obama tells the world that we are going to give a fair trial to the man who admitted—prior to being given his proper Miranda warning—that he orchestrated the worst incident of terrorism to strike the American homeland in our history.
We say we are going to give a fair trial to this man. He is going to be found guilty, the President tells us. And, Mr. Obama continues, he is going to get the death penalty.
Compared to this, the military trial of American civilians for the murder of President Abraham Lincoln was a model of judicial restraint and legal decorum. Historians to this day criticize the trial that brought David Herold, Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt, and Mrs. Mary Surratt to the scaffold on July 7, 1865, less than four months after the assassination.
President Andrew Johnson was a vicious racist and universally regarded as one of America’s worst presidents. But even Johnson’s conduct in the conspirators’ trial looks better than what we are seeing from Obama. At least Johnson let the military trial go forward and allowed its sentence to be carried out with dispatch.
Sentence first. Verdict afterwards. Attorney General Holder has said failure [to convict] is “not an option.” Really? Then who could seriously believe that this is a fair and open trial before an impartial jury?