One Vote Away from Constitutional Disaster
For those of us who cherish civil liberties, the last thing we need is Sen. John McCain in the Oval Office. What many people don’t think about when pulling the lever in the voting booth is that the president appoints judges that control their lives – not only appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court, but up and down the federal judiciary.
Senator McCain’s “positions are nearly identical to the president’s on abortion and the types of judges he says he would appoint to the courts,” “How Close McCain Is to Bush Depends on the Issue,” New York Times, June 17, 2008.
President Bush’s arch-conservative choices for the Supreme Court are one vote away from a majority. One more appointment by either President Bush or Mr. McCain, if elected president, would mean a stunning reversal for human rights.
On June 12, 2008 the Supreme Court by just a 5-4 vote held that terror suspects held at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay could not be denied the right to file a habeas corpus petition to challenge why they were being held.
The news stories of the day claimed a great triumph for democracy. The linked piece is just one example of many television, radio and press stories that totally missed the point.
To anyone who claimed this was a “great triumph” or the like, that’s a frightening conclusion.
This decision was a near disaster.
Habeas corpus should be protected by a 9-0 vote.
This 5-4 decision mirrors the U.S. criminal justice system, which has the highest number of people behind bars in the world. Even more than in China. That is a stunning indictment of a “sink or swim” society and raises serious questions about the law that your courts are enforcing and just how uncivilized a society we have allowed the United States to have become. Law and order is fine, but for all the law, we don’t have much order.
The statute denying the historic protection of habeas corpus with the purpose of taking away the supervisory function of the courts was drafted and supported by John McCain. And his favorite judges – the kind he would appoint – voted against this necessary constitutional restraint on illegal government actions.
Chief Justice John Roberts, and associate justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas – whom Bush senior lied about when he said Thomas was the most qualified person he could appoint – all were the dissenters.
Thomas, Scalia, Alito and Roberts, our TSARs in waiting, would love to have just one more reactionary vote to chisel away more of the underpinnings of our Constitution and put an end to individual rights.