On Thursday the New York Times ran a worshipful obituary for Michael Ratner, former president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a hard-left outfit founded by radical lawyer William Kunstler. The obituary by Sam Roberts appeared under an adulatory headline, “Michael Ratner, Bold Civil Liberties Lawyer, Dies at 72.”
Left out of Roberts’ report? His solidarity with Cuba's Communist dictator Fidel Castro, his adulatory book on murderous Communist thug Che Guevara, and this gem from December 2005 during the Bush administration’s war in Iraq: "The Bush administration has moved us from a government responsible and accountable to the people to one that dictates to the people. Every American should be in political rebellion against the criminals now running this country."
In Roberts’ eyes, Ratner was “a fearless civil liberties lawyer who successfully challenged the United States government’s detention of terrorism suspects at Guantánamo Bay without judicial review...."
The reporter issued a laundry list of leftist disruptions by Ratner, yet could only find an ideological label for the "right-wing."
As head of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner oversaw litigation that, in effect, voided New York City’s wholesale stop-and-frisk policing tactic. The center also accused the federal government of complicity in the kidnapping and torture of terrorism suspects and argued against the constitutionality of warrantless surveillance by the National Security Agency, the waging of war in Iraq without the consent of Congress, the encouragement of right-wing rebels in Nicaragua and the torture at the Abu Ghraib prison during the Iraq war.
“Under his leadership, the center grew from a small but scrappy civil rights organization into one of the leading human rights organizations in the world,” David Cole, a former colleague at the center and a professor at Georgetown Law School, said in an interview this week. “He sued some of the most powerful people in the world on behalf of some of the least powerful.”
Roberts let that same fellow leftist bring up the Magna Carta when talking about the suspected terrorists in Guantanamo Bay.
Professor Cole predicted that Mr. Ratner would be best remembered for filing the first lawsuit on behalf of Guantánamo detainees in a case that eventually affirmed their right to judicial review.
“This was a case that was regarding a fundamental principle, going back to the Magna Carta in 1215, about the right to have some kind of a hearing before you get tossed in jail,” Mr. Ratner told Mother Jones magazine in 2005.
Roberts treated the release of suspected terrorists from Guantanamo Bay as an unalloyed positive:
While Guantánamo still has not been closed, as President Obama had promised, hundreds of detainees have been released.
Many of whom have gone on to commit more terrorist acts. Roberts skipped that detail. In fact, Roberts couldn’t find a single conflicting voice as he continued the roll call of Ratner’s leftist heroes:
Mr. Ratner defended Julian Assange and WikiLeaks for disseminating millions of secret American government documents; served as a counsel to Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the Haitian president, in the prosecution of war crimes; and advocated on behalf of Haitian refugees held at Guantánamo after the 1991 coup that overthrew Mr. Aristide, the country’s first democratically elected president.
(Reporter Roberts was a fan of another radical group, the late and unlamented Occupy Wall Street: “Those numbers suggest that the Occupy Wall Street protesters can make a compelling case when they complain that the economic scales are unfairly tilted toward the wealthy. The megarich hold more of the nation's wealth and collect more of the overall income today than at any time since right before the Great Depression....The wealthiest of the wealthy control more of the country's treasure than at any other time for which data are available.”)
The Times has always embraced Ratner and his hard-left activist group as a “human rights organization” full of “civil libertarians.” Both the paper’s past news coverage and current obituary skip any hint of incendiary statements and acts by Ratner, including an infamous December 21, 2005 press release from his Center for Constitutional Rights that quoted president Ratner: "The Bush administration has moved us from a government responsible and accountable to the people to one that dictates to the people. Every American should be in political rebellion against the criminals now running this country." That gem has seemingly disappeared from their website, but a contemporaneous account from a sympathetic source, Socialist Worker, confirms it.
Also nothing about Ratner’s book worshipping the murderous Communist hero Che Guevara, “Who Killed Che? How the CIA Got Away With Murder.” From the book blurb: “The spirit of Che Guevara, as an icon and an inspiration, is as vibrant today as it ever was.”
By contrast, a right-of-center political activist, Andrew Breitbart, didn’t exactly receive that same kind of adulation from the NYT after his sudden death in 2012.
Editor Bruce Headlam in a podcast cited Breitbart’s “willingness to push the limits of what he saw as journalism, what a lot of other people saw as just stunts and demagoguery.” Obit writer Jeremy Peters was harsh for an obituary, which traditionally are respectful of the recently deceased: “Mr. Breitbart was as polarizing as he was popular. On the political right he was hailed in the same breath with Rush Limbaugh and Matt Drudge as a truth-teller who exposed bias and corruption. On the left, he was derided by many as a provocateur who played fast and loose with the facts to further his agenda.”