Monday, June 16, 2008

Bush, McCain Expose Their Contempt for the Constitution by Ripping High Court

President George W. Bush (R) and Republican candidate Sen. John ...

Republican presidential nominee-elect John McCain is trying hard to pass himself off as being "independent" from the man he wants to succeed in the White House, President Bush, but when it comes to the war in Iraq and the overall war on terror, there isn't a dime's worth of difference between them. McCain made it abundantly clear last week that he's on the same page as Bush when it comes to the treatment of so-called "enemy combatants," a policy which the Supreme Court declared last week -- for the third time -- violates the Constitution that every president is bound by his oath of office to "preserve, protect and defend" -- and obey. (Photo: Jason Reed/Reuters)

(Readers' Feedback follows)

By Skeeter Sanders


If there were any lingering doubts that Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee-elect -- who's trying very hard to paint himself as a "maverick" and "independent" of President Bush -- is marching in lockstep with him on the war in Iraq and on the overall war on terror, those doubts were removed in spades last week.

Transforming Thursday's Supreme Court decision on so-called "enemy combatants" into a campaign issue, McCain on Friday denounced the court's 5-4 ruling, which -- for the third time -- declared unconstitutional Bush's policy of indefinite detention without charge or trial of foreign terrorism suspects at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, ruling yet again that the detainees have a right to challenge their detention in civilian courts.

"The United States Supreme Court [Thursday] rendered a decision which I think is one of the worst decisions in the history of this country," McCain said at a town hall meeting while campaigning in Pemberton, a southern New Jersey town adjacent to McGuire Air Force Base.

War or No War, President Must Abide by the Constitution

This blogger could not disagree more sharply. To the contrary, McCain, like Bush, has chosen to ignore a fundamental fact of law: The Constitution does not give the president authority to carve out an exception from habeas corpus -- the requirement that the government file charges against individuals it deems dangerous to Americans -- solely because the detainees at Guantanamo are not U.S. citizens and they were apprehended in wartime.

Both the Bush administration and McCain have chosen to disregard the Supremacy Clause (Article VI, Section 2) of the Constitution, which establishes it as "the supreme law of the land." It has also chosen to disregard the Geneva Conventions -- the 1929 international treaty governing the treatment of prisoners of war -- despite an earlier Supreme Court ruling that the administration must abide by it, since the treaty was ratified by the Senate and thus has the force of law under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.

Everyone Under U.S. Jurisdiction -- Citizen or Not -- Has Right to Due Process

"We made it very clear these are enemy combatants," McCain said Friday, defending his position. "They have not, and never have, been given the rights of citizens of this country."

Sorry, senator, but just because the Guantanamo detainees aren't U.S. citizens does not give the president the right to lock them up and throw away the key without bringing up charges against them in a legal proceeding, whether in a civilian court of law or in a military tribunal. Every person under U.S. jurisdiction -- whether a citizen of the U.S. or not -- has a right of due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment.

The court left unresolved the constitutionality of the president's system of military tribunals under the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which Bush rammed through the then-Republican-controlled Congress after the high court declared unconstitutional the system the administration had put in place after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Two of McCain's allies, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Joe Lieberman (I- Connecticut), joined him in denouncing the high court's decision. As a practical matter, the ruling amounts to "three strikes and you're out," to use a baseball analogy, as this was the third time that the high court -- with Justice Anthony Kennedy casting the pivotal fifth vote and writing the majority opinion -- has declared Bush's system of dealing with the Guantanamo detainees unconstitutional.

Graham Calls for Amendment to Reverse High Court's Ruling

Graham, a close adviser to McCain on military and justice issues, said Thursday the Constitution might need to be amended to override the justices' decision. ruling. McCain did not rule out that option, but said there are other avenues available, including drafting a new law to limit detainees' access to federal courts.

Graham is living in a dream world if he thinks such an amendment will pass. First of all, it takes a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress to pass a constitutional amendment, then it has to be ratified by a three-quarters majority of the 50 state legislatures. Given the current political makeup of Congress -- and the fact that it's an election year -- the amendment hasn't got a snowball's chance in hell of passage.

As for legislation to restrict detainees' access to federal courts, that approach has been tried twice before -- only to be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, on the grounds of both the Fourteenth Amendment's guarantee of due process and the separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government.

That Bush has demonstrated a callous disregard for the Constitution in carrying out its war on terror is bad enough. That McCain is marching in lockstep with him is disgraceful and unbecoming of a United States senator who claims to desire to do things differently from Bush.

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REMEMBERING TIM RUSSERT -- A JOURNALIST OF THE OLD SCHOOL

NBC Television personality Tim Russert walks onstage before ...

Tim Russert, host of NBC's "Meet the Press," died suddenly on Friday at the age of 58 (Photo: Molly Skipper/Reuters)

"If it's Sunday, it's 'Meet the Press.'"

That signature sign-off line by Tim Russert, the Washington bureau chief of NBC News and longest-serving host (17 years) of television's longest-running program (61 years and counting) will never be heard live again. The booming voice that uttered that now-familiar line has suddenly -- very suddenly -- fallen silent forever.

Russert's chair was empty on "Meet the Press" on this Father's Day Sunday, two days after he collapsed and died of a heart attack while preparing for the broadcast.

The suddeness of Russert's death was shocking in and of itself. That he died at the age of 58 -- which in this day and age of the average American's life expectancy now in the upper 70s is considered still relatively young -- stunned even the most jaded among us.

Yet Russert's presence was very much felt on the hour-long, emotional tribute to this giant of political journalism who hosted NBC's public-affairs program longer than anyone else in its six-decade-long history.

"His voice has been stilled," began retired "NBC Nightly News" anchor Tom Brokaw, who led the conversation, "and our issue this sad Sunday morning is remembering and honoring our colleague and our friend ...."

Brokaw and a half-dozen others were seated in front of the "Meet the Press" set and its angular table, left vacant, where Russert had presided as recently as last week.

Brokaw noted that Russert had a large wooden sign in his office that read: "Thou Shalt Not Whine," which Brokaw then supplemented with "Thou shalt not weep or cry this morning. This is a celebration."

But Brokaw -- who struggled to keep his composure as he broke the news of Russert's death on Friday -- became emotional again on Sunday as he recalled Russert's words of awe at how far a working-class kid from Buffalo like himself could rise: "What a country!" he would marvel.

Among those gathered were presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and political pundit Mary Matalin, with Maria Shriver — the former NBC News correspondent and currently California's first lady — on a remote hookup.

All agreed that Russert was tough but fair in his interviewing, and that he, as a former political operative himself, loved politics and politicians. What he didn't like, said consultant-pundit James Carville, was an elected official or anybody else who wasn't prepared to face him. "The biggest insult to him was someone who came on and ... didn't take the show seriously," Carville said.

It was a mistake they quickly regretted, because Russert took his stewardship of "Meet the Press" as a sacred trust -- and, in the process, became the most highly respected newsperson on television since Walter Cronkite, not only with his colleagues in the media, but also with the viewers.

Doctor: Blood Clot in Artery Triggered Russert's Heart Attack

NBC said Russert's physician, Dr. Michael Newman, determined that cholesterol plaque ruptured in an artery, causing blood flow to the heart to be blocked by a clot. The network said an autopsy shortly after his death showed he had an enlarged heart and significant coronary artery disease.

"I think I can invoke personal privilege to say this news division will not be the same without his strong, clear voice. He will be missed as he was loved, greatly," Brokaw said.

Amen.

It was as host of "Meet the Press" since 1991 that Russert became a leading voice in American politics by mixing his cheerful on-air persona with the tough questioning of political guests including Bush and leading personalities of the 2008 presidential campaign.

That Russert questioned his guests like a lawyer cross-examining a witness was no accident: he was an attorney by training, and was an aide to the late former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-New York).

Russert Became Part of the Scooter Libby Story

Russert became a news subject himself in 2007, when he provided key testimony at the CIA leak trial of Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Libby was charged with lying and obstructing a federal investigation into the leaking CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity after her husband criticized the Bush administration.

Libby said he had learned of Plame's secret identity from Russert. But Russert testified he did not discuss Plame with Libby and offered the jury an account sharply at odds with Libby's recorded testimony. Libby was ultimately convicted, but Bush commuted his sentence, sparing him from prison.

Russert was also a best-selling author. Big Russ and Me described his childhood in Buffalo, New York, and his relationship with his father, Tim Russert, Sr., who worked as a garbage collector. He also wrote The Wisdom of Our Fathers, inspired by letters he received from children talking about their relationship with their fathers.

That Russert died at the beginning of the Fathers Day weekend was at once poignant and fitting, given his love for both his father and for his son, Luke.

God bless you, Tim. You will be sorely missed.

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Volume III, Number 39
Copyright 2008, Skeeter Sanders. all rights reserved.

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READERS' FEEDBACK


Posted by: Bill

Supporters of the Supreme Court decision keep calling this a "constitutional" issue. It isn't a constitutional issue because the constitution says nothing about the writ of habeas corpus for non-citizens.

The Bush administration isn't in contempt of the constitution, but they are in contempt of the Geneva Convention. The detainees should have been designated as prisoners of war (which is what they really are). Then they would have had the rightful protections of the Geneva Convention.

Our constitution offers no such protections, and it is judicial activism on the part of the Supreme Court to amend it so outside of the correct method of amendment.

Skeeter Sanders replies:

Sorry, Bill, but you're dead wrong. The Bush administration IS in contempt of the Constitution. Article VI, Section 2 says quite explicitly that:

"This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."

The Sixth Amendment says, just as explicitly:

"In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district where in the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense."

Note that the Sixth Amendment makes no distinction between citizens of the U.S. and foreign nationals in the U.S. Any and all persons accused by the United States or any State of having committed a crime under the jurisdiction thereof has a right under the Sixth Amendment to a speedy and public trial.

That standard, the Supreme Court has now declared THREE TIMES, applies to war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by foreign nationals on U.S. soil. The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington were acts of war, but they were WAR CRIMES committed against U.S. citizens and foreign nationals on U.S. soil.

The Bush administration, therefore, IS in contempt of the Constitution. Your claim of "judicial activism" in this case is, therefore, totally bogus.







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