Tuesday September 09, 2008
Obama to Palin: “Don't Mock the Constitution”
I’m the editor of several Super Lawyers publications around the country, including those in Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, Wisconsin, Illinois, Washington, D.C., and New York — and in the New York issue, which comes out later this month, we’ve written profiles of three of the big civil liberties lawyers in the city: Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Arthur Eisenberg of the NYCLU and Manuel Vargas of the Immigrant Defense Project. The piece, written by Jessica Centers, mostly focuses on their work post-9/11. The various attacks on civil liberties that they’ve fought. The attacks that they keep fighting. So I’ve been immersed in this stuff, at an editorial remove, for a few months now.
Which is why Sarah Palin’s line in her acceptance speech about how Barack wants to “read terrorists their rights” really pissed me off.
At first I didn’t get it. What was she talking about? Then it hit me. Oh my god, she’s talking about the Guantanamo Bay detainees. She’s talking about how the Bush administration, and apparently Gov. Palin herself, or at least her (former Bush) speechwriters, feel it’s OK, and in fact demand, that the U.S. military have the right to grab any foreign national, in any place, put them in military prison, and deny them the right to meet their accusers: To know why they’ve been grabbed. To know why their life has been reduced to a life inside a small box.
In a perfect world this wouldn’t matter, because everything would be perfect: The suspects would be the right suspects, the military would make no mistakes, everything would be fine, And America would be safer.
But it’s not a perfect world, and this entire fiasco is making America less safe.
Today Sen. Obama struck back, as eloquently as ever. First he said that to read terrorists their rights, you have to catch them first, and the Republicans haven’t been very good at that.
Then he launched into a defense of habeas corpus, which has been around at least since the Magna Carta, if not earlier. From the Washington Post:
Calling it “the foundation of Anglo-American law,” he said the principle “says very simply: If the government grabs you, then you have the right to at least ask, 'Why was I grabbed?' And say, 'Maybe you've got the wrong person.'”
The safeguard is essential, Obama continued, “because we don't always have the right person.”
“We don't always catch the right person,” he said. “We may think it's Mohammed the terrorist, but it might be Mohammed the cab driver. You might think it's Barack the bomb-thrower, but it might be Barack the guy running for president.”
”The reason that you have this principle is not to be soft on terrorism. It's because that's who we are. That's what we're protecting,“ Obama said, his voice growing louder and the crowd rising to its feet to cheer. ”Don't mock the Constitution. Don't make fun of it. Don't suggest that it's not American to abide by what the founding fathers set up. It's worked pretty well for over 200 years."
God, I love this man.