Friday, January 10, 2020
IN SEARCH OF CIVILITY / LETTER TO A GOP CONGRESSMAN
The following letter by Preet Bharara, a CNN senior legal analyst and former US attorney for the Southern District of New York was published yesterday by CNN.
Dear Representative Doug Collins,
You are not my congressman, and while I am ever thankful for that fact, after seeing your performance on Fox News on Wednesday night, I'm not sure you are fit to be anyone's congressman. Specifically, I saw you blithely assert on national television that Democrats "are in love with terrorists. We see that they mourn Soleimani more than they mourn our Gold Star families."
No American is "in love" with terrorists or "mourns" the death of that Iranian general on an airstrip in Baghdad. Many of us do, however, mourn the death of decency, honesty and reason here at home.
I realize that you are a politician and that hyperbolic, hyperpartisan claptrap is the unfortunate fashion of the day. But even allowing for the new normal of nastiness in political rhetoric, your casual slur of countless good Americans hits a new bottom. Americans can, in good faith, differ about the legality or efficacy of killing Soleimani. That doesn't make them unpatriotic or lovers of terrorists. It is hostility to differences of opinion that is un-American.
I understand that politics is a tough racket. I served as a Democratic staffer in the US Senate. I get that terrorism is a threat. I prosecuted terrorists as a United States attorney, working just yards from Ground Zero. I know of the particular evil posed by Qasem Soleimani. My office prosecuted plots orchestrated by him and the Quds Force, including the conspiracy to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States in 2011.
So, I have some idea of what is at stake here when it comes to terrorism. As you well know, Congressman, terrorists do not kill Republicans or Democrats. They kill Americans.
You know what else is true? The prosecutors, law enforcement agents and intelligence officers who keep us safe from terrorism do not do so as Republicans or Democrats. They do so as Americans. The victims of terrorism — and their families — do not grieve as members of a political party. They do so as Americans.
You are not a talk radio host or a carnival barker. You are a pastor, an attorney and a sitting member of Congress. Therefore, the evidence would suggest you should know better. To utter such garbage, which you know to be false and defamatory, goes against all the training and teaching you must have received. But you got your cheap shot across, and perhaps that's all that matters to you.
To be clear, Congressman, I am not making some old and familiar naive call for a return to "civility" in our politics. I don't have much hope for that in the immediate future. I just want people like you to knock off the worst scurrilous nonsense. I'd hope that would be possible for a member of the House who happens to be the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee.
If we are going to come together, protect the homeland and heal the hearts of people who have suffered the scars of terrorism, we need our leaders to do better than lazy trash talk.
Learn that volume and wisdom are not the same thing.
You were elected to lead. Please give it a try.
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