In today's column, I noted that Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), Barack Obama's choice for chief of staff, has a history as a hard-line drug warrior. Here is another example of his tougher-than-thou rhetoric, from a 2006 press release "in response to reports that Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez' [sic] called the war on terror a real war, not like the war on drugs":
Thanks for the white flag. From the United States' most senior law enforcement official, the man who should be leading the war on drugs, this white flag of surrender will not be reassuring to the millions of parents trying to protect their kids.
The excuse for Emanuel's attempt to position himself to the right of the Bush administration on drug policy is not just lame but alarming. The statement by Gonzales to which he refers was made during an interview with The Kansas City Star in which the attorney general defended the administration's unilateral, indefinite detention of suspected terrorists. Here's an excerpt from the Star article, which I found on Nexis (italics added):
[Gonzales] said that "just like in every other war," the American people will have to trust the government to protect the rights of those in custody while pursuing justice in secret. Pressed on how long extraordinary measures—for instance, the imprisonment of suspects without the filing of charges—might continue, he said they would last at least until the pursuit of al-Qaida and its accomplices has come to an end.
"First of all this is a real war," he said, drawing a distinction between the war on terror and "the war on drugs or the war on poverty or something like that. It's like the Cold War. At some point this conflict is going to be over. But today it is not over."
Instead of challenging the Bush administration's use of war rhetoric to justify chucking habeas corpus, due process, and the separation of powers, Emanuel faulted it for waging the war on drugs with insufficient enthusiasm. Not only does this not bode well for drug policy in the Obama administration; it further undermines the next president's claim to be better than Bush on civil liberties in general.