Guantanamo Bay is one of those issues that stir passions in Washington, even among those who normally agree with each other.
In this video, Republican Senators Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham argue over the rights of the “crazy bastard” terrorists in Guantanamo to have the right of a trial.
Graham was the one who initially used the “crazy bastard” phrase:
“The American people don’t want to close Guantanamo Bay, which is an isolated military controlled facility, to bring these crazy bastards that want to kill us all to the United States. Most Americans believe that the people at Guantanamo Bay are not some kind of burglar or bank robber.They are bent on our destruction.”
The debate was over an amendment to bar the use of government funds for shipping Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. for trial.
Paul took exception to Graham’s words:
“I don’t really think that if we’re going to have a crazy bastard standard that we shouldn’t have a right to trial by jury, because if we’re going to lock up all the crazy bastards, for goodness sakes, would you not want, if you’re a crazy bastard, to have a right to trial by jury?
“I think this is a very serious debate and should not be made frivolous. This is an ancient right that we have defended for 800 years, for goodness sakes. To say that habeas is due process is absurd. It’s the beginning of due process. If you don’t have a right to trial by jury, you do not have due process. You do not have a Constitution. What are you fighting against and for if you throw the Constitution out?”
Paul’s right. It isn’t just about a few terrorists held in indefinite detention on an island. It is about a historic right that is one of the bases for freedom and human rights. It’s easy to dismiss those rights for despicable people, but as we are learning that becomes an opportunity to encroach upon the rights of average, law-abiding citizens.
Despite the debate, Paul joined Graham in passing the Amendment. There were a number of Democratic defectors who supported the amendment, giving it the votes needed to pass 54-41. Not a single Republican joined the Democratic opposition.
While Paul gave a strong civil libertarian response, it wasn’t enough to persuade any Republicans to buck the party. It wasn’t even enough for Rand to convince himself.