16 October 2006. I suppose it goes without saying that Ashcroft’s response utterly fails to address Olbermann’s question… but check out the imagery he falls into.

KEITH OLBERMANN: In your new book, you have defended some of the more, uh, imposing efforts to fight terror and terrorism and this subject is particularly relevant right now because the President is set to sign the Military Commissions Act tomorrow, which is going to codify some of those efforts into law. I’d like to read one of the definitions in the Act and ask you a hypothetical about it, if I may.

“The term ‘unlawful enemy combatant’ means a person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant.”

What is there in this new law, that would check the President, or any President — not in terms of tradition, nor in terms of common sense, nor even in terms of fear of bad publicity, but in that measure itself — if a President claims that you or I materially supported hostilities against America and declares us “unlawful enemy combatants,” and he wants to send you and I off to Guantanamo Bay, where in the law does it say the President can’t do that?

JOHN ASHCROFT: Well, let me first just indicate that I have not read this new statute in its completeness. I do believe that the President should have the authority to designate individuals who bear arms or take up hostility against the United States as enemy combatants. I think in doing so the President has a responsibility to have a process that is consistent with the Constitution. We have a President, we don’t have a king, and he has to make a determination based on facts. Holding anyone who is bearing arms against the United States, pending the outcome of the conflict, or against any country, is long recognized as something that’s part of having war. And when you have a war, you’ve gotta be able to take prisoners, if you don’t, the alternative is to kill all the people that you encounter, and certainly that’s not what we want done. So the ability of a President to apprehend those fighting against the country, and to take them out of the stream of conflict, so that they’re not fighting our own flesh and blood, representing the country in the defense of freedom, is a humanitarian thing. To move them out of the stream rather than to reinsert them with an ability to again assault our own people.

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