It really has been amazing watching dovish media members who were perpetually complaining about the terrorist detention center at Guantanamo Bay and the enhanced interrogation of its residents when George W. Bush was president now cheering the assassination of United States citizen turned terrorist Anwar al-Awlaki.
A fine example of this hypocrisy occurred on HBO's "Real Time" Friday when the host who just last year supported a civilian trial for 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed applauded Awlaki's murder while encouraging his audience to join in the merriment (video follows with transcript and commentary, vulgarity warning):
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BILL MAHER, HOST: No, I know why you're happy tonight. President bad ass has done it again. A predator drone killed Anwar al-Awlaki. You can applaud that if you like.
He is Al-Awlaki, is the, well United States citizen is what he is. He was living in Yemen, became the world's most wanted terrorist. And it just shows once again do not f--k with Obama.
This was how Friday's show began: a liberal Hollywoodan cheered what many would consider an unConstitutional assassination of a U.S. citizen and encouraged his liberal audience to celebrate with him.
It almost defies the imagination.
A few minutes later, while discussing national security issues with the Washington Post's Dana Priest, Awlaki came up again:
DANA PRIEST, WASHINGTON POST: Bin Laden's dead. Al Qaeda's almost dead. And the guys who really know what they're doing and women they have a bead on the organizations that are coming up. That's al-Awlaki. That's why he got whacked.
MAHER: That’s why he got whacked, and I’m glad he did.
"That’s why he got whacked, and I’m glad he did."
After dismissing Priest, Maher brought Awlaki up with his exclusively liberal panelists:
MAHER: And Chris Christie the other night, the new flavor of the month as they call him, the new man crush of the Republican Party, was at the Reagan library, and he said in his big speech that the president was just a bystander in the Oval Office. And then the next day Obama killed al-Awlaki, which I love. So I just want to say: maybe Obama’s bad at class warfare, but warfare warfare, he's pretty good.
FORMER MICHIGAN GOVERNOR JENNIFER GRANHOLM (D): I would say so.
A few minutes later:
MAHER: So were we right to kill al-Awlaki. I mean, look, Ron Paul, who I don’t agree with on a lot of things, but he has the balls the size of a Smart Car. He really does. He came out…
SALMAN RUSHDIE, AUTHOR: Not necessarily helpful.
MAHER: Maybe not. But, you know, he said we shouldn't do it. He said, his points were this is an American citizen Awlaki, never killed anybody personally. We're not at war with Yemen and he never had a trial. I don't agree with that, but you know…
"He never had a trial. I don't agree with that." Readers are advised to remember this.
SETH MACFARLANE, CREATOR “FAMILY GUY: It's a weird gray area because my first instinct when I read this was, “Well, yeah, that makes perfect sense.” There was no feasible way that we could arrest this guy. So what else do you do? If Osama bin Laden would had been an American citizen we still would have had to go in and deal with him as we did.
GRANHOLM: Take him out. Take him out.
Fascinating. So a perilously liberal Hollywoodan and a former Democratic governor both think that if bin Laden had been an American, he wouldn't have been entitled to the rights of a U.S. citizen, and could have been assassinated exactly the way it occurred earlier this year without a formal arrest and a trial.
Yet these same people for years carped and whined about non-American enemy combatants - aka terrorists - being detained at Gitmo without due process, and even fought for civilian trials in Manhattan for folks directly connected to 9/11.
MACFARLANE: But then then, start to think, well, you know, if you think for a little longer, it’s, there are certain, the price of freedom comes with certain, certain unpleasantness that, you know, we sometimes give up a little bit of our safety and in return we all make the agreement that we all have the same rights, and when you kind of throw all of that out the window, as much as we trust Obama, would we want to see a President Bachmann with the same right to do that?
MACFARLANE: And once you open that can of worms, you can't close it again. So that's a little scary.
Again fascinating: liberal presidents should be allowed to ignore due process and habeas corpus - because we "trust" them! - but we certainly wouldn't want that same privilege accorded a conservative president.
In effect, the Constitution should be interpreted differently depending on who's in the White House.
Scary indeed, but the best was still to come:
RUSHDIE: Just to say that there, there is a crime called treason.
RUSHDIE: And when people commit the crime of treason…
MACFARLANE: You just sounded like something out of the HMS Pinafore. That was great.
RUSHDIE: You should hear me sing. Gilbert and Sullivan, I can do it.
MACFARLANE: Ah, yeah.
RUSHDIE: But, you know, when people commit treason, join the enemy, fight against their own country, they usually sacrifice a few rights.
MAHER: Right. And also the penalty for treason is death, I believe.
GRANHOLM: Exactly right.
Actually, not exactly right. According to U.S. code title 18, subsection 2381:
Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years and fined under this title but not less than $10,000; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.
As such, a person convicted of treason isn't automatically put to death, which means that in the case of Awlaki, the Obama administration acted as his judge, jury, and executioner.
One would think liberals would find this totally abhorrent. Apparently not when a Democrat is in the White House.
But the hypocrisy goes much deeper, for on February 16, 2010, Maher had a much different view of how terrorists should be treated under the eyes of the law:
MAHER: I think the idea that we use an army to fight terrorism is just wrong. They don't have an army, they have exploding underwear. It's just not a wise decision. And he's -- he's also -- what I don't admire is that he's a -- he's a liar, you know. I mean...
LARRY KING, HOST: Whoa.
MAHER: Yes, but he is. He just missed -- Joe Biden had that correct. You know, for -- for him to go after the Democrats for treating terrorists the exact same way that his administration did. And, of course...
KING: Which was wrong?
MAHER: -- we have to -- you have to -- many -- any of them. They were all tried in courts in America and all put away. You know, I, if I was a criminal or a terrorist, whatever you want to call them, yes, I would fear the most a prosecutor -- a seasoned federal prosecutor in our system, you know, like Eliot Spitzer was, those kinds of guys.
MAHER: Julie, Giuliani himself, I think, was that.
MAHER: Yes, tough. And there's a reason they've put them all away and a reason they will -- they will never get out of prison, because if there's one thing we can still do in this country, it's put people in prison and keep them there.
KING: So you favor a civilian trial for the guy responsible for 9/11?
KING: In -- in Manhattan, where it happened?
MAHER: In Manhattan.
So in February 2010, when the Obama administration was thinking of trying KSM and others in Manhattan, Maher was all for it saying, "The idea that we use an army to fight terrorism is just wrong" and "If I was a criminal or a terrorist, whatever you want to call them, yes, I would fear the most a prosecutor -- a seasoned federal prosecutor in our system."
In effect, the war on terrorism should be fought in the courtroom and not on the battlefield. But nineteen months later, using the military to murder a U.S. citizen without an arrest, trial, prosecution, conviction, and sentencing is just fine.
And this man is considered by some to be a political pundit whose views should be taken seriously.
To paraphrase MacFarlane, that's a lot scary.
Of course, it should go without saying the conservative view on this issue is and has been far more consistent than the liberal one.
The Right for the most part had no problem with how Bush prosecuted the war on terror and have for the most part backed Obama's decisions concerning Gitmo, bin Laden, and Awlaki.
If only our counterparts on the other side of the aisle and in the media were capable of making policy decisions without regard to Party.
I know that's asking way too much.