This is just off the wall.
Our Attorney General of the United States Eric Holder went to the University of California Berkeley (stop laughing, you) to give a commencement speech. The transcript is available here. The first part of it is pretty much boilerplate, "hey we have a common thread" sort of claptrap that you get at any of a thousand commencement speeches. "I'm a lawyer, now you are lawyers, let's get out there and do some lawyering" kind of stuff.
All well and good.
But then Holder says something that should have induced the audience to laugh him off the stage. Yes, even at Berkeley.
Holder starts by criticizing the Roosevelt administration for detaining and imprisoning Japanese-American citizens because of the fear that they would collaborate with the Japanese government. Then Holder moved on to criticizing the Bush administration (oh, I bet that surprised you, didn't it?) and Congress itself for its questionable practices.
This is what he said:
"More recently – in the aftermath of 9/11, as our nation struggled to cope with an unprecedented tragedy, and to respond to a new kind of stateless threat – fear and uncertainty drove us, in certain cases, to abandon our values in pursuit of information about those who would do us harm. We used techniques that were of questionable effectiveness, but were certainly inconsistent with who we say we are as a people. And in bringing suspected terrorists to justice, some questioned – and continue to question – the capacity and effectiveness of our federal civilian court system. Members of Congress placed unwise and unwarranted restrictions on where certain detainees could be housed, charged and prosecuted. In short, many lost faith with our founding documents and our time-tested, effective institutions.
In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, many of these tired and meritless political arguments – and renewed calls to abandon the use of civilian courts in dealing with terrorism-related activity – are being made once again. And once again, every legal professional, every aspiring leader, and every graduate in this crowd today must renew your commitment to standing firm – in the face of manufactured controversy and overheated partisan rhetoric – to uphold our most sacred values.
Let me be clear: those who claim that our federal courts are incapable of handling terrorism cases are not registering a dissenting opinion. They are simply wrong. Their assertions ignore reality. And attempting to limit the use of these courts would weaken our ability to incapacitate and to punish those who target our people and attempt to terrorize our communities.
Throughout history, our federal courts have proven to be an unparalleled instrument for bringing terrorists to justice. They have enabled us to convict scores of people of terrorism-related offenses since September 11. Hundreds are properly, safely and securely held in our federal prisons, not Guantanamo, today. Not one has ever escaped custody. No judicial district has suffered a retaliatory attack of any kind. And no other tool has demonstrated such a robust ability to stop terrorists – and collect intelligence – over a diverse range of circumstances. I defy anyone, on the merits, to challenge these assertions." (emphasis added)
You, uh, defy anyone to challenge those assertions, eh, Eric?
One quick little question: What prison are we holding Osama Bin Laden in? Or Abdullahrahman al-Alwaki? Or Samir Khan? Are drones some new arm of the federal courts? Or is that ignoring reality?
Okay, that's more than one question.
How about another little question: How's Khalid Shaikh Mohammed's trial going? Or Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's? And how's that closing of Gitmo going?
Oops, I'm having trouble counting past one again.
And here's a news report from a couple of years ago about Taliban fighters escaping from prison. Of course, that's in Afghanistan, so maybe Holder was engaging in a bit of Clintonian speak.
Anyway, Holder finished his speech thus:
But, in the critical days ahead, no matter how you choose to put your legal training to work – in the public sector, in private industry, or in private practice – I urge you to keep up the habit of pro bono service you established here at Berkeley. Keep engaging with the difficult concepts and defining challenges you’ve grappled with on this campus. And never forget that every one of you is among the most qualified legal professionals in this country. You are among the best equipped to serve and to lead. And you are among the most prepared to help a new generation rise to the challenges of the moment, bring about the meaningful changes we need, and make this world – your world – a truly better place.
I know that each one of you has that ability – and that possibility – within you. I implore you to make the most of it. Use your unique skills, your idealism – and the power that your new law degree affords – to better yourselves, to improve your communities, and to solve the complex problems that undoubtedly lie ahead. Dare to question that which is accepted truth. Strive to change that which is unjust. And dedicate yourselves, above all else, to creating a world that reflects your aspirations for a brighter future; reaching for the principles that have always made our nation great; and fighting to secure and make real the promise of justice not only for your time, but for all time.
As you make your way forward, know that we have faith in you. We are proud of each one of you. And we are counting on this Class of 2013 to make more fair and just a world that now looks to you for the leadership that you are uniquely qualified to share.
"Dare to question that which is accepted truth."
Oh, that's rich. After denouncing the Bush administration and boasting that a civilian court system was superior to every other approach (both of which, undoubtedly, had his audience nodding their heads in agreement) Holder serves up a huge slab of lie and urges his still-nodding audience to question authority.
Well, except, of course, for the Obama administration. Trust us, we're on your side.
We would never lie to you.