David Rivkin and Lee Casey are an op-ed-writing team of former GOP legal officials who defend practically every terrorism-related policy pushed by the Bush administration. Here they are saying that warrantless surveillance “has always been on firm legal ground.” Here they are saying that the Justice Department and CIA torture memos somehow prove “the actual techniques used… did not cause severe pain or degradation.” Here they are saying that Congress can do practically nothing to stop a war aside from ceasing to appropriate money for it. Clearly they know something about implausible spin. And even they think the Cheneyites crossed a line by calling Justice Department lawyers who defended Guantanamo detainees the “al-Qaeda Seven.“
Ben Smith has a letter signed by a coalition of Republican legal mainstays, including Rivkin and Casey, denouncing Keep America Safe’s most recent ad, terming it “a shameful series of attacks” on people who upheld the “American tradition of zealous representation of unpopular clients [which] is at least as old as John Adams’s representation of the British soldiers charged in the Boston massacre.” Other signatories include, of all people, Cully Stimson, the Pentagon official in charge of detainee policy who resigned for exactly the same offense that the Cheneyites committed and the letter condemns. Yes, they’ve lost that guy.
And they know it. Smith cites Bill Kristol, a board member of Keep America Safe, implausibly spinning the ad as an attempt to merely raise questions about disclosure — which itself suggests that the Justice Department lawyers did something untoward, something a Founding Father disputes — and not impugning the loyalty of the people the ad called the “al-Qaeda Seven.” That sounds like an attempt at a face-saving retreat, with Kristol’s attacks on the critics of the ads acting as little more than suppressing fire. The question now becomes whether Keep America Safe’s toxic reputation remains with it the next time it attempts to attack the patriotism of the Obama administration.