Nowadays, when it's a car race, the starter says, "Gentlemen, start your engines." In the old days when it was swords or pistols, I think it was usually, "Take your places." But no matter; it's a duel, and President Barack Obama and former Vice President Richard Cheney are shooting to kill.
The prison at Guantanamo? "In the fight against terrorism," Cheney shot, "there is no middle ground and half measures keep you half exposed." If you agree then you are saying that the U.S. Constitution's guarantees of the right to a fair trail, to a lawyer, to see the evidence against you - all fall before the need to lock up suspected terrorists. You can in fact lock them up for life without ever charging them with anything.
And torture is okay too, of course.
President Obama's volley: "I believe with every fiber of my being that in the long run we also cannot keep this country safe unless we enlist the power of our most fundamental values....Time and again, our values have been our best national security asset." If you disagree, you may well be very frightened now.
So is Mr. Obama the great defender of our freedoms? Not exactly. Mr. Obama says Guantanamo was a mistake, but adds that he would move "to construct legitimate legal framework" to justify the detention of terrorist suspects who could not be tried or released. This scares some of his supporters to death. But hey, it's early days.
This is a very old battle. In World War II Franklin Roosevelt sent Japanese-Americans to concentration camps, not because they'd done anything wrong but just because of whom their ancestors were. Pretty awful, we all decided later. Much later.
This time the game is still in play. The winner? Too soon to call but I'm pulling for the Constitution.
Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile