Whether the wolf at the door is a common criminal or a foreign-trained terrorist, the legal issue at the level of the voting booth is simple: Where along the spectrum of personal safety do I and my family feel comfortable? On this score, the incoherence of the Obama administration’s policies on domestic terrorism, detainees and military tribunals unsettles people. When they felt this way about personal safety in the 1970s and ’80s, their votes for “law and order” candidates were an attempt to restore balance. It worked. The Supreme Court narrowed the 1960s’ most expansive interpretations of defendants’ rights.
Barack Obama’s handling of terror is a voting issue. Republican candidates should put it before voters this November and in 2012. Looking at the failed Christmas airliner bombing, the aggressive recruitment of home-grown jihadis and the aborted Najibullah Zazi bombings in New York City, I’d say establishing a policy of coherence and constancy in meeting this threat is more urgent than the health-care odyssey Mr. Obama has forced on us for a year.
Whatever one thinks of Liz Cheney’s TV ad, it asks one big question: Is the legal mindset of the lawyers she criticized naively expansive and dangerous, just as it was on domestic crime 30 years ago? Let the voters decide.