Rachel Maddow Wants Show Trials for "Criminal" Bush Officials While Extending Presumption of Innocence to Terrorists

Alas, lamented lefty pundit Rachel Maddow of Air America Radio and MSNBC, President-elect Obama may pursue a 9/11 commission-type inquiry into alleged crimes of the Bush administration instead of full-blown show trials.

Maddow also demonstrated her odd predilection toward condemning Bush officials as guilty who've yet been charged with anything, much less convicted, while wringing her hands over the fate of horribly misunderstood terrorists such as Salim Hamdan, bin Laden's "driver."

Here's what Maddow said on her radio show Monday, initially referring to the death of a high-level al Qaeda operative in Pakistan --

And hey, remember the other war? No, no, no, not the other war, the other-other war, the one that we're supposedly not fighting in Pakistan? On Saturday the US military announced that another unarmed, uh, unmanned drone attack killed the guy who you can blame for having to carry three-ounce bottles of liquid only on, in your carry-on luggage, the guy who was implicated in the supposed transatlantic airliner plot.

Got that? For the "supposed" plot in August 2006. "Supposed" in the sense that, heck, for all we know, it was just another ruse cooked up in Crawford to keep us crouched in fear.

Minutes later, Maddow referred to "criminal" behavior of Bush officials --

One question that I have been thinking about and increasingly worrying about with the new administration is the question of what can be done about the established precedents from the Bush administration of criminal behavior by the government. This has come to the fore in the first instance in the case of torture and illegal detention and interrogation practices. Should the Obama administration prosecute members of the Bush administration for that, because there is an important legal implication to whether or not those precedents are allowed to stand. Is that politically possible? Is it a moral or legal imperative? And what do they see as their options heading forward? And how can I make them do more than they might otherwise want to do? (laughing at end, bizarrely given context)

One of Maddow's guests that day, Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff, proceeded to undercut her assertion by pointing out that these are allegations, not indisputable fact. Isikoff told Maddow of Obama leaning toward a 9/11-commission approach rather than criminal prosecution but if the latter should occur, it may result from what Obama officials find in records and documents from the preceding administration --

Their judgments based on, you know, those reports and what's in the files, may be that there's grounds to launch a criminal investigation. It's hard to say without knowing exactly, none of this has ever been made public, we can only surmise what's in them.

Maddow's tendency to dismiss the actions of al Qaeda terrorists as inconsequential was on egregious display in August after Hamdan was tried by military commission (Hamdan was reportedly transferred from Guantanamo Bay on Wednesday to serve out the remainder of his sentence in Yemen).

On Aug. 6, Maddow spoke with Jonathan Mahler, author of "The Challenge: Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and the Fight Over Presidential Power," over Hamdan being convicted of providing material support to terrorists but not on more serious counts of conspiracy -- 

MADDOW: I felt like there was a lot of sort of loosy-goosy hinting today in the coverage about the fact that he had these missiles in his vehicle when he was actually apprehended by US forces. As far as I understand it, he wasn't convicted of anything that had anything to do with those missiles. He was convicted of this material support for terrorism charge.

MAHLER: That's right, that's right. He was, in fact, captured with two surface-to-air missiles in the trunk of his car. He had basically, what had happened is, he had just left his wife and daughter, his wife was actually eight months pregnant at the time, and he had left his wife and daughter at the border of Pakistan. They were basically fleeing, fleeing the al Qaeda compound and he was captured then sort of on his way back into Afghanistan with these two missiles in his car. But, they were not really part of the conviction. I think the defense argued that there was a civil war going on in Afghanistan at the time and you can't say that he was going to be using these missiles against US forces. What he was ...

MADDOW (interrupting): Although it should be noted, it's not like the Northern Alliance or the Taliban had an awesome air force, if they really were surface-to-air missiles.

MAHLER (laughing): Good point, Rachel, good point!

MADDOW: Unless we're talking magic carpets here! (laughs) Yeah, all right, carry on. (Yes -- "carry on")

MAHLER: But what he was, what he was convicted of was material support, so basically what he was convicted of was driving bin Laden around in the aftermath, in particular of say, the 1998 embassy bombings in east Africa, the US embassies were bombed in east Africa by al Qaeda in 1998. And as bin Laden's driver, Hamdan presumably helped him elude capture in the wake of those attacks.

MADDOW: So literally what he was convicted of was not quitting his job.

MAHLER (laughs after a pause): That's one way of looking at it, certainly.

MADDOW: I mean, not that they're saying that there was anything criminal about his driving.

MAHLER: They, what they did is, they convicted a driver of driving.

MADDOW: Yeah! (both laugh)

To borrow from Mahler, "that's one way of looking at it, certainly." A less unhinged way of looking at it is that Hamdan was convicted of aiding and abetting the worst terrorist in the world as bin Laden plotted to slaughter thousands of Americans on Sept. 11, 2001.

As Mahler pointed out to Maddow, Hamdan "presumably" helped bin Laden evade capture after the embassy bombing in 1998, thereby allowing bin Laden to prepare for the 9/11 onslaught.

Further, Hamdan abandoned his pregnant wife and their child at the border with Pakistan -- what a guy! -- after war began in Afghanistan in October 2001 and was captured heading back into Afghanistan with two surface-to-air missiles in his vehicle. Apparently Hamdan was eager to return to that awesome chauffering gig with bin Laden, employment he was incapable of performing unless in possession of advanced weaponry. 

As Maddow stated in a fleeting moment of candor, "it's not like the Northern Alliance or the Taliban had an awesome air force." Then why would Hamdan need the missiles -- to stave off road rage?

Maddow is fond of referring to herself as a "national security liberal." That she is, and then some.

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Ex-liberal from People's Republic of Massachusetts