In the past two weeks the death of Trayvon Martin has been unavoidable for anyone consuming U.S. news media. The incident has of course become widely politicized. The left has generally declared, or at least implied, that George Zimmerman is a cold-blooded murderer and racist, while the right has been less quick to issue judgment, admonishing everyone to wait for a trial before issuing a conviction.
It is of course instructive to see how the death of Trayvon Martin has been covered by the media and pundit class, vis. a vis. the deaths of Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16 year-old son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. With but a few exceptions, the left ignored their assassinations, as if they would go away. There were exceptions, of course.
The right however praised those murders. Speaking on the senior al-Awlaki, Bill O’Reilly said he was a “vicious terrorist who got exactly what he deserved.” The editors of National Review had no problem with such an arrangement either.
So here we have the progressive left demanding justice for what they see as a clear-cut case, despite little concrete evidence and at the very least, no criminal charges (yet). When virtually the same situation existed last year, such a murder as described above was all but ignored. No protests, no marches, no endless analysis or extended coverage by 24 hour news networks.
On the right, conservatives have been equally inconsistent. Now they’re telling everyone to wait for a trial before jumping to conclusions on Zimmerman’s guilt. But last year all it took was for the president to assure everyone that who he’d chosen to have killed was a really bad guy, and there was no need for a trial. The right seemed to be saying “due process is outmoded; trust the administration, they’ve got this one. But only on this issue, mind you. Everything else they say is a lie, a half-truth, demagoguery, or a political ruse.”
Just don’t call out the right on this one.
But that’s exactly what I did this morning. Greg Knapp was covering both issues, speaking on the Martin/Zimmerman case and reading listener e-mails on the air. One listener declared that al-Awlaki was guilty of treason (despite no actual evidence, charges, trial, conviction, or appeals process). I called in and got through, noting the seeming dissonance from many on the right.
I was told I had it all wrong, that because al-Awlaki was a known terrorist and al-Qaeda member, it wasn’t an assassination, and al-Awlaki didn’t need a trial to be found guilty. The evidence is on the internet. He admitted to being a terrorist.
The logic of such an argument is so flawed it might be humorous were we not discussing death and murder. Of course the constitution is quite clear on the subject of treason: “No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”
The 5th Amendment also makes it abundantly clear: “due process of law” is required before any person is “deprived of life, liberty, or property.” In either case a trial must occur.
The government must present two credible witnesses to testify to the act of treason, or the defendant must confess in open court. The fact that the constitution is explicit in this regard seemed to frustrate Knapp. He again told me I was wrong, as if merely saying so makes it factual. I countered by saying I didn’t write the law, someone else did and the states ratified it. Like it or not, that’s the law.
As is standard, I was cut off before I could elaborate. Given the opportunity, I would have argued that if the evidence were so overwhelming in favor of guilt, why didn’t the government just bring charges against Mr. al-Awlaki before having him killed and make a slam dunk case of it? I suspect I would have been told again that I was “wrong.”