December 26, 2003


Dean not ready to sentence bin Laden (The Associated Press, 12/26/2003)

Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean says it's premature to recommend what penalty Osama bin Laden should face before he's been legally determined to be guilty of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

Asked whether bin Laden should be tried in the United States and put to death, Dean told the Concord Monitor: "I still have this old-fashioned notion that even with people like Osama, who is very likely to be found guilty, we should do our best not to, in positions of executive power, not to prejudge jury trials."

In an interview with the New Hampshire newspaper for Friday editions, Dean added: "I'm sure that is the correct sentiment of most Americans, but I do think if you're running for president, or if you are president, it's best to say that the full range of penalties should be available. But it's not so great to prejudge the judicial system."

Let's take his point seriously for a second, before we marvel at his capacity to fire rounds into his own melon, shouldn't we have had this evidentiary proceeding before we toppled a sovereign government in pursuit of the suspect (a war, Afghanistan, which he claims to have supported)?

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 26, 2003 3:20 PM

Usama bin Laden has already confessed, on the videotape in which he expressed pleasant surprise that the attacks brought down the WTC.

Further, although Dean is correct, what kind of politician actually SAYS that, outside of closed doors ?
Perhaps he's trying to lay the groundwork for an anti-administration position, should UbL be killed or captured before the election.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at December 26, 2003 6:54 PM

Looks like Dean has the Reuters endorsement sown up!

Posted by: Ed Driscoll at December 26, 2003 7:42 PM

Looks like Dean is unfit for the presidency.

And any claims to seriousness.

Posted by: jsmith at December 26, 2003 8:55 PM

Well, Dean is now trying to cover his tracks. He's now "clarified" his comments to the effect that he despises OBL, he was outraged by 9/11, et cetera, et cetera.

This is somewhat reminiscent of Dukakis's response when asked by Bernard Shaw about what he would do if his wife had been raped and murdered. Instead of giving the honest answer - viz., "I would kill the sunavabitch" - Dukakis talked about the death penalty and the judicial system and the rights of the accused - a seminar on capital punishment instead of the gut response.

Dean's saving grace is that this wasn't on national television. But the Washington Democrats have got to be just besides themselves. This guy cannot win and will take the Party down with him. As Krauthammer pointed out, he's the type of person who thinks he's so smart he can say anything and can always go back and fix things. Without, of course, acknowledging his errors in the first place.

You can do that on a Vermont TV station or in front of a Bush-hating leftwing audience; but not on a national stage. His past is prelude.


Posted by: SteveMG at December 26, 2003 11:38 PM

Let's hope he is still able to get the Dem nomination as he self-destructs before facing Bush.

Posted by: AWW at December 27, 2003 12:27 AM

So no one here does believe in the American justice system and the necessity of putting someone on trial before having him executed under the law?
Or is it just the American voter's brainpower that's in doubt, and therefore Dean's giving the intelligent answer is sure to sink him against Bush?

There's a difference between what a single individual, with all his passions, might want to do, and what the government, as a justice-dispensing entity, should do. As an individual, Dukakis would want to kill his wife's rapist; as the government, the U.S. may have a different obligation.

If Osama bin Laden is killed by accident, no one's gonna weep. But for the U.S. to take him into custody and be capable of keeping him there safely through a trial yet to decide, before the completion of that trial, to execute him -- that speaks poorly of our commitment to our own system of justice. If the American system fails, no system can prevail.

As for the war in Afghanistan, what would a better response to a regime that refused to turn over the #1 suspect in the murder of 3000 civilians have been? We already had made the Taliban as outlaw as possible, economically and politically sanctioned. Were we going tell them that we wouldn't support them against any future Soviet invasions unless they gave us bin Laden?

If bin Laden goes to France and France categorically refuses to turn him over when it is in their power, I'll be the first to call for invading the nation in pursuit of the suspect. Of course, we did make that highly unlikely scenario minutely more possible by our actions in pursuit of the war in Iraq...

Posted by: PG at December 27, 2003 12:52 AM

Of course not--he isn't a citizen of the U.S. and isn't entitled to a trial. We're trying our best to kill him without one, aren't we?

Posted by: oj at December 27, 2003 1:32 AM

So Adolph Hitler never came to trial, nor Pol Pot(? was there house arrest??), nor Bonnie and Clyde. Idi Amin... the list becomes rather long. Most of us THINK they're all sorta not-nice people. But they were never found guilty. Mr. Dean, indeed, how cute.

Posted by: Larry H at December 27, 2003 8:32 AM

Leadership is about deliberation and analysis not for intellectual enjoyment and for the approval of the elites, BUT to facilitate decision-making that is never perfect, but more often than not correct. In a leader's career, he or she may have to make many tough decisions that will demand much analysis and deliberation, and then courage. This is not one of them. I tremble at the thought of another focus-group baby boomer in the White House.

Posted by: MG at December 27, 2003 8:47 AM

We've killed enough Afghans, Iraqis, Syrians, Saudis and so on, without a trial, that offing one more--especially considering he's one of the main reasons we killed those people--harms my conscience very little. This isn't a police investigation, this is war.

But, seriously, does anyone have any evidence he's not a chalky pink paste on a cave wall in Afghanistan?

Posted by: Timothy at December 27, 2003 1:31 PM

All the twisting by the philosophes about victors' justice does seem to miss the point, doesn't it?

If you're not going to dispense victors' justice, why bother to become a victor?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at December 27, 2003 2:35 PM

Bush makes Dean angry. Bikepaths make Dean angry. When it comes to Bin Laden he is disinterestedly rational. What a creep.

Posted by: Carter at December 27, 2003 3:03 PM