Sen. McConnell Drags Casey Anthony Into Argument Against Civilian Terror Trials

July 11, 2011 10:28 am ET — Alan Pyke

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is nobody's idea of a statesmanlike speaker, but usually the Republican Senate leader's rhetorical slips amount to accidentally telling the truth about his partisan mindset, or his determination to repeat talking points rather than engage on substance. But yesterday on Fox News Sunday, the senior Kentucky senator made a genuinely offensive argument against civilian trials for terror suspects.

MCCONNELL: These foreign terrorists are enemy combatants. They should be taken to Guantanamo, they should be tried in military commissions, new legislation that we passed just three years ago precisely for the purpose of dealing with foreign terrorists. These are not American citizens. We just found with the Caylee Anthony case how difficult it is to get a conviction in a U.S. court. I don't think a foreigner is entitled to all the protections of the Bill of Rights. They should not be in U.S. courts. They should be at Guantanamo and before military commissions.

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McConnell's willingness to exploit the Casey Anthony trial — which means the leading Senate Republican weighed using a child's murder to fear-monger on an unrelated subject, and decided this was a good idea — is also just plain ignorant. He's grasping at anecdotal evidence and reaching past a mountain of facts.

This isn't theoretical. We've tried it his way, and there's a substantial amount of data to show that when it comes to punishing terrorists, the civilian court system is much more successful than the military tribunals McConnell and the GOP prefer — especially when the criminal case has been tarnished by torture or other violations. But in McConnell's mind, we should ignore all that because we're angry a jury let Casey Anthony walk.

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