Former Bush/Rumsfeld speechwriter Marc Thiessen sandbags Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell on the op-ed pages of the Washington Post for deigning to sign the legislature’s near-unanimous NDAA interposition measure:
…McDonnell’s national security credentials have come into question, thanks to his mishandling of a bill passed by the Virginia General Assembly that disassociates the commonwealth from the military detention of al-Qaeda or its terrorist affiliates who happen to be U.S. citizens. The bill, HB 1160, would effectively bar Virginia state troopers from arresting a terrorist like Anwar al-Awlaki if they knew he would be put in military detention. McDonnell didn’t raise a finger to stop this odious legislation as it made its way through the Virginia legislature. As a result, it passed 97-3 in the House of Delegates and 39-1 in the state Senate.
The indefatigably fair Matt Lewis doubts it ruins his VP eligibility. I’d go even further and
say that signing the bill gives him the best chance of any VP short-lister to court the Ron Paul faction.
There are two big x factors there, however. The first is the orthodoxy of the GOP foreign policy elite, and the second is the Ronulans’ intransigence. And the case could easily be overstated; Thiessen and the WSJ editorial board have gone to great lengths to portray McDonnell as the state executive version of Justin Amash, which is ridiculous given the margins by which the measure passed.
Regardless of Thiessen’s deluded assessment, the General Assembly’s vote makes it quite clear that if he had been imprudent enough to “raise a finger” against the bill, his veto would have been overridden anyway. Comparing the GA’s vote to Congress’ makes no sense, it requires a breathtaking suspension of logic to assert they, “voted to have the state employees of Virginia lay down their arms in the war against al-Qaeda.” In addition, the bill’s sponsor Bob Marshall is a social conservative from a Northern Virginia district that receives a great deal of defense funding.
Thiessen, apparently, thinks habeas corpus (the right enshrined in Article 1 of our Constitution) can be suspended indefinitely by just declaring our nation to be in a state of permanent war.
Maybe terrorism is different? But if Thiessen thinks that’s the case, he’s free to encourage an amendment to our Constitution. Until that point, it’s quite clear that McDonnell should be praised, not excoriated, for Virginia’s leadership among the states in defending our Constitution.
McDonnell defied the neoconservative establishment by going against the wishes of Ed Meese and Michael Chertoff (a Romney advisor and MEK supporter) when they urged him in writing to veto the bill. This is about ensuring that the VP pick, whoever it should be, will toe the acceptable national security line.
Thiessen begins by making the off-topic point that Virginia’s ultrasound law could hurt a Romney-McDonnell ticket. That is, despite the governor’s opposition to mandated transvaginal ultrasounds that he made clear by threatening to veto the bill unless moderating language was included. He’s probably right in that it would become a talking point of the Obama campaign, but it would be one talking point in a veritable constellation including, no doubt, attacks on his attendance at Regents University.
All this leaves aside the question of the proper role of the states in light of the federal government claiming the power to indefinitely detain its citizens. Conservatives used to value federalism, but now leaders on the right would rather state executives be unthinking vassals to the national security state, thwarting their own constituents.
Update: Thiessen responds, misses the point. The case he keeps bringing up is Anwar al-Awlaki, but what about those unsavory occupiers who were arrested recently for allegedly attempting to blow up the bridge in Ohio, or the ones arrested for bringing molotov cocktails to the NATO summit? They’re being brought up on terrorism-related charges, but they don’t wear the ‘enemy combatant’ label too well. Would Thiessen send them to Gitmo? Would it be wrong for a state to prevent that from happening?