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Subject:  Sarah Palin vs. Atticus Finch Date:  9/21/2008  6:00 AM
Author:  PeterRabit Number:  1271142 of 2206878

... it was in that much-heralded speech at the Republican convention that Palin tossed off a line I found more disturbing than anything unearthed about her since. It got a predictably enthusiastic response from the keyed-up partisan crowd.

"Al-Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America," said Palin, and then, referring to Barack Obama, quipped: "He's worried that someone won't read them their rights."

Quite apart from the cheap distortion of Obama's position, typical of most campaign rhetoric, this is a classic lynch-mob line. It is the taunt of the drunken lout in the cowboy movie who confronts a sheriff barring the prison door - He wants to give 'im a trial? It is the precise sentiment that Atticus Finch so memorably sets himself against in Harper Lee's masterpiece To Kill a Mockingbird, when he agrees to defend a supposedly indefensible black man charged with rape (falsely, as it turns out).

I wonder if Palin really believes her own position on this. I'm willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it was just a speechwriter's idea of a great applause line, perhaps she hasn't fully thought it through. The sentiment is on the wrong side of a deep principle, one that we have long honored in this country, that has to do with basic fairness, the rule of law, and ultimately with standing up intelligently to terrorism.
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