Broward News

George LeMieux's Gotcha Interview With Secretary of Defense

This is embarrassing. On a day when U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates came to Capitol Hill to dramatically announce his department's plan to ditch the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, Florida Sen. George LeMieux used his time at the mic to push an unrelated and absurd political agenda. Let's roll it:

The expression on Gates' face is priceless. It seems to say, "Who let this guy in here?" (Hey, don't look at us Florida voters! This one's on Charlie Crist.)

As Gates points out, he has no say in how terrorism suspects are treated in the U.S. and it would be irresponsible for him to publicly express an opinion that contradicts the policy of the official who does have a say on that policy: the U.S. Attorney General.

Being a political neophyte, LeMieux's blunder is almost forgivable. But his McCarthyism is absolutely not.

As a lawyer, LeMieux should know the difference between a police action and an act of war.

Yes, terrorists come to the U.S. to wage war. So the logic goes that they ought to be treated like enemy soldiers. To hell with their Miranda rights, because that might mean forfeiting evidence and investigative leads.

It all sounds perfectly reasonable until you get to the tricky question of how we decide who is a terrorist and who is merely a criminal suspect entitled to hear his Miranda rights and due process of law. If George LeMieux has a foolproof way of telling who's a terrorist, he should share it with the rest of us.

Of course, there is no foolproof way, and so LeMieux's idea has dangerous implications for creating a Gestapo state. Americans of Middle Eastern descent would be even more targeted by law enforcement than they already are. And with a recent wave of terrorism by white supremacists and Christian fundamentalists, law enforcement officers could deprive those groups -- and anyone who looks like a member -- of the same legal protections the rest of us enjoy.

It's a bad idea. The fact that LeMieux knows it makes it even worse.

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Thomas Francis