It is not a hard and fast rule. A person may shade the truth for various reasons: vanity, personal allegiances, financial incentives, etc. Usually, once you figure out the relevant motivation, you can sort out on what matters he is probably credible and what he is prone to lie about. Sometimes, though, the story is so unbelievable, so insulting to the intelligence, that a rational juror knows it is best to discount all of the testimony - or, worse, to conclude that the truth is likely the opposite of the witness's desperate version.
Of course, all the world's a stage, not a courtroom. I am reminded of this when, as now, I happen to have a book out (Spring Fever: The Illusion of Islamic Democracy) that speaks to events currently roiling the world. I am reminded, that is, that I am no longer a trial lawyer making arguments to a jury. Now I am a writer who makes his arguments to the public and, at book-publication times like these, through the prism of the mainstream media. So it was that, in a few interviews this week, I have been asked about two currently raging symptoms of "Spring Fever," the Libya attacks and the Blind Sheikh.
Today's journalists do not resemble jurors. The interviews proceed in a now-familiar pattern. We go through the events of last week's atrocity in Libya, where U.S. ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were murdered in Benghazi. Again and again, Obama-administration officials insisted that the killings were the result of spontaneous rioting over an obscure movie casting Islam's prophet in an unflattering light - a movie from months ago, a movie virtually no one knew about, much less saw, a production so cockamamie that calling it a "movie" fails the straight-face test.
As the administration well knew, this was a coordinated jihadist attack led by al-Qaeda-affiliated forces, clearly well-trained and equipped with sophisticated weapons. One of the participants was a former Gitmo prisoner, detained there for years because it was patent that, given the chance, he'd go back to the jihad. There appears to have been forewarning about likely trouble on the 9/11 anniversary.
Did anyone really need in-depth intelligence to recognize these dangers? Part of the reason the United States struck up an alliance with Qaddafi's despicable regime was his intelligence cooperation: Per capita, Libya sent more jihadists to Iraq to fight against American troops than any other country. The only difference between then and now is that, with Obama having toppled Qaddafi in a war the U.S. launched without provocation and on the side of al-Qaeda, the rabidly anti-American Islamists of Benghazi now have access to high-powered weaponry previously unavailable to them. A movie? Before the president ever got to his unseemly Vegas fundraiser, with the nation still mourning its dead, it was pluperfectly obvious that we'd been subjected to a terrorist strike that had nothing to do with a moronic movie.
Yet our U.N. ambassador, Susan Rice, repeated the farcical Obama-admnistration line with a straight face. It was insulting, and even reporters for whom Obama can do no wrong could not take it seriously. In some of my interviews there has been nervous laughter - not over the situation, which is so deadly serious, but over the administration's line, which has been ludicrous.
But then we get to the Blind Sheikh. I prosecuted Omar Abdel Rahman back in my former trial-lawyer life. He is less than 20 years into his life sentence for terrorism convictions. During his time in prison, he nevertheless managed to issue the fatwa Osama bin Laden credited as the required sharia green-light for the 9/11 attacks. So I have been asked often this week about reports that he may be transferred to his native Egypt. There, as Spring Fever demonstrates, the populace is overwhelmingly adherent to the supremacist Islam that dominates the Middle East. There, his war against America makes him a hero, and he would be welcomed, triumphantly, as such.
Could that possibly happen? "You bet it could," I've told my interlocutors, "it could and it will." Watch for the frightening weeks between Election Day and Inauguration Day, when, no matter who wins the election, Barack Obama will retain all the awesome power of the presidency without any of the accountability of an impending election.
"But wait," I'm admonished. "They've denied it. The Justice Department has denied it. So has the State Department, and at least one member of the National Security Council. How much clearer can they be?"
I don't know. How much clearer could they have been about Libya?
The Obama administration is the witness whose testimony a jury would discount out of hand. We trust jurors to decide important questions because they bring to the task the common sense of the community. After Libya, the sensible person says, "Never again." The sensible person does not even see the point of asking Obama officials for information.
Not the media, though. Whether it is Libya, the "practically complete fence" along the Mexican border, the Obamacare tax that is not a tax, the indignant denial of gun-running, cutting the deficit in half by the end of the first term, the composite girlfriend, the "most transparent administration in history," and so on - the media compartmentalizes from lie to lie, assessing the next as if the last had never happened.
Does the president rate the benefit of the doubt at this point? Seriously?
No way this administration would spring a notorious terrorist? Are you kidding?
The president has already released the terrorists responsible for murdering our five soldiers in Karbala. In his last go-round at Justice, Eric Holder orchestrated pardons for convicted FALN terrorists - pardons signed off on by President Clinton, who went on to release two convicted Weather Underground terrorists on his way out the Oval Office door.
There is nothing new here. Reports that the State Department was discussing a transfer of the Blind Sheikh back to Egypt surfaced months ago, in the context of a potential swap for democracy activists the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces was then detaining. The administration then issued a visa to Hani Nour Eldin, a member of the Islamic Group - the Blind Sheikh's terrorist organization, to which it is a felony to provide material assistance. The purpose was to invite Eldin to, yes, the White House, for consultations with top American national-security officials on prospective relations between the United States and the new, Islamist Egypt. As the administration had to know he would do, he pressed his top agenda item: The United States must return the Blind Sheikh as a "gift to the revolution."
Eldin obviously felt very comfortable making the demand. We do not know exactly what he was told or what message he took back to Egypt. We do know that shortly afterward, as soon as the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi was announced as winner of the July presidential election, Morsi publicly vowed to pressure the United States to transfer the Blind Sheikh back home.
Did the Obama administration express outrage? Did the president tell Morsi, "Not in a million years"? No, he dispatched Secretary of State Clinton to Cairo for a friendly face-to-face meeting with Morsi - right after she paid a visit to the ruling generals, squeezing them to surrender power to the popularly elected Brotherhood regime. Then the Obama administration got about the business of planning both more billions in aid for Egypt and a red-carpet welcome for Morsi at the White House - the kind of meeting our actual ally, Israel, asked for but can't seem to get as our busy commander-in-chief bounces from David Letterman to Jay-Z.
But don't worry: Obama would never send the Blind Sheikh back to Egypt after the election, when the wrath of voters is no longer a concern for him. After all, administration officials have sworn otherwise, and we know we can take that to the bank, right?
This article appears at NRO.