Too Clever By Half

When last we visited Stephen Taylor, he was telling us a pleasing tale about the cold, unemotional logic of right-wingers that unfortunately was dogged by one pesky little flaw — it was completely and utterly false.

Never mind. Taylor now moves on from polishing old chestnuts to consider the Khadr issue “through a logical lens” in a manner that will be “true to our cold sense of objectivity and in harmony with our values as but one element of modern Western civilization.” Yes, he really wrote that pretentious drivel.

Taylor sets the stage by fairly laying out some “indisputable facts” that needn’t be repeated here, followed by his concluding argument, that we’ll get to in a moment. For now, let’s jump ahead to the “first principles” that his position are evidently based upon.

Omar Khadr doesn’t himself deserve to released from jihadi limbo at Gitmo and tried before an American court. However, as individuals who are defending a society based upon key values such a due process, presumption of innocence, and the rule of law, we deserve it. Khadr’s present threat does not manifest itself in his illiberal hatred of our culture, it rests instead in the extent to which we are to make our own values malleable in order rationalize our understandable but illogical emotion.

That’s quite a contradictory muddle, I say. And little wonder, given that it’s premised on the puzzling contention that “Khadr doesn’t himself (emphasis added) deserve to [be] released” from Guantanamo.” Look high and low through that article for a reason why this is so and you won’t find one. In fact, it baldly contradicts one of the “indisputable facts” previously outlined; that is, “Every single person held in custody ought to be afforded the due process of law.” One assumes this odd rhetorical construction may simply be away of deflecting any imagined criticism for taking what some might regard as an overly “soft” stance towards Khadr by indicating that his right to a trial is more for our benefit rather than it is for Khadr’s. But I’m just guessing as to the machinations of Taylor’s “logic” here which seems to be wobbling quite badly under the strain of his “understandable” but wholly irrational emotion.

So, to what extent are so-called right-wingers willing to make their own values (i.e., due process and the rule of law) “malleable” in order to “rationalize” this emotion? A rather less than satisfying answer to this question is provided in the conclusion that we bypassed earlier:

Omar Khadr ought to face justice against his American accusers and stand trial before an American court. Guantanamo Bay cannot provide the justice that Americans deserve as Gitmo itself robs that society of two of its fundamental values: due process and the rule of law.

This proposal, Taylor daftly claims, “will lead to some uncharacteristic emotional outcry from conservatives.” Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Uncharacteristic… Oh boy, that was a good one!

Well, let’s admit that Taylor is half right in his admission that the military commission won’t render a fair trial for Khadr. A problem though arises from Taylor stubbornly refusing to accept the inconvenient fact that the Bush administration is moving full steam ahead with a trial before a reconstituted military commission rather than a civilian criminal court. This makes his proposed course of action both remarkably dense and completely unrealistic:

Khadr should not be returned to Canada, as we do not simply return Canadian citizens to Canada when they run afoul of the law in the United States. However, to complete this logical loop, Khadr must face the law in an American court. With both US Presidential candidates calling for the closure of Guantanamo, Prime Minister Harper would be wise to call for Khadr to face American due process.

It would truly be a stupendous reach to imagine Harper intervening simply for the purpose of asking that it be moved to a civilian court. Such a move by a foreign leader — even one as cozy with the Bush administration as Harper is — would doubtless be viewed by Washington as a highly unwelcome and meddlesome bit of interference, to say the least. Moreover, it’s not Harper’s place to presume to tell the Americans how to run their affairs.

On the other hand, he most certainly can and should quite properly be expected to call for the repatriation of a citizen to face justice in this country if it’s felt that fair trial won’t be possible under the circumstances abroad. Unfortunately, our apparently “malleable” prime minister seems quite willing to accept what he laughably refers to as the “legal process in the United States” to deal with matters.

If this sort of insipid claptrap and cracker barrel advice to the prime minister is the product of Taylor’s “cold logical reason” we can’t say there’s much to recommend it. But of course, it’s actually nothing of the sort. In point of fact, throughout his article, Taylor flouts every tenet of his bogus premise about the purported intellectual superiority of so-called right-wingers. To the contrary, it’s logically flawed, deeply contradictory, laughably simplistic and worst of all, obdurately blind to reality.

Maybe if Taylor was less concerned about pandering to the conceits of his flock, he might honest enough to admit that not only is Harper’s current position wrong, but those calling for Khadr’s return are actually the ones far less “malleable” when it comes compromising on “key values such a due process, presumption of innocence, and the rule of law.” Heck, some liberals are even known to get quite emotional in defense of these principles. On the other hand, many so-called right-wingers seem more concerned about finding clever new ways of circumventing, corrupting and bypassing them altogether — like say, Messrs. Bush and Harper.

The “Emotional Left Rail”

I have to confess that I had never heard that peculiar expression before its employment by “Blogging Tories” beefy head honcho Stephen Taylor in a piece outlining why he feels that Omar Khadr shouldn’t be repatriated to Canada for trial. Oops, I’m sorry. Did I say “feels”? I should actually have said, “why Taylor thinks with cold, hard logic”… Good gravy, not feels! Perish the thought.

Irrational emotionalism is, of course, the hackneyed, condescending framework in which Taylor attempts to characterize the attitude of “left-wingers” regarding this contentious issue in order to trivialize it:

As a conservative, I have for the most part found intellectual solace in logic on issue tracks where my bleeding-heart friends usually hug the emotional left rail. The broad-arching free markets help rise more people out of poverty than knee-jerk social and emotional reaction to give hand-outs to sustain a substandard of living is but one example where cold right-wing logic is a better and more constructive end that short-sighted albeit well-meaning emotionalism. I have always believed that right-wingers act upon what they know to be true, whereas left-wingers act upon what they feel to be true.

There’s so much wrong with this bogus tripe that it’s hard to know where to begin, but let’s consider Taylor’s phony “example” for starters. Here, “broad-arching free markets” are pitted against “hand-outs to sustain a substandard of living” as the best means of helping “rise [sic] more people out of poverty” thereby conclusively demonstrating the triumph of conservatism over liberalism, one presumes.

Unfortunately, the comparison is a patently false one for obvious reasons. It supposes, for instance that “liberals” are somehow opposed to the free market, which is clearly not the case. The sort of programs that are alleged to be the result of a “knee-jerk… emotional reaction” aren’t even defined at all beyond having their motivation and objectives cartoonishly mocked, so how can one even attempt to make a comparison? The simple answer is that you can’t make any sense at all out of this slovenly, wooly-headed fluff — which is somewhat ironic given that Taylor purports to be a champion of “cold right-wing logic” that he hilariously claims is a “hallmark” of his ideology. How refreshing it would be to see some actual evidence of this assertion in practice. Alas, scan the gamut of “The Blogging Tories” and scarcely a shred of it will be found.

A little added comedy bonus comes in the last sentence above where Taylor states that he’s “always believed that right-wingers act upon what they know to be true, whereas left-wingers act upon what they feel to be true.” This fatuous, faith-based claim might possibly have some validity if what so-called right-wingers “know to be true” was actually based on facts rather than is more frequently the case, specious rubbish that stubbornly lodges itself in the space between their ears.

As for Taylor’s actual point about Khadr, I’ll address that in a later post.