Monday, June 16, 2008

Worst Ever?

The right wingers are all in a rage about the Supreme Court’s ruling that prisoners at Gitmo are entitled to legal recourse. Two examples: John McCain and Newt Gingrich.

As this un-bylined piece from CBS Court Watch notes, Sen. McCain’s reasons are two-fold: he needs to sound like a True Believer in order to win over the hard-core base of the GOP, which loves to sharpen its fangs on “activist” and “unelected” judges whenever they don’t get a ruling that they like. (Of course, when they get what they want, the judges are the wise Solomons who do not let winds of politics sway them). The second reason is that Sen. McCain was one of the authors of the law that got shot down by the Court.

It’s called the Military Commissions Act. It was a terrible idea from the very beginning, and it was one of two federal statutes undercut by the Justices last Thursday. It’s no wonder the nominee is taking the defeat personally.

After first insisting that federal law clearly and unambiguously outlaw “torture,” McCain suddenly caved to White House pressure on the MCA, allowing the Administration to insert into the law a clause that effectively allows (and, indeed, legally buttresses the efforts of) the executive branch to implement torture as a means of interrogation.

Without McCain’s pander, there would have been no bad law for the Court to strike down last week. Without McCain’s grandiloquent appeal to Democrats and moderates during that lame-duck session, there quite possibly might have been a better law that just might have passed its constitutional test this term.

McCain’s sell-out on the torture language is not the reason the Justices declared the MCA unconstitutional. It is not the reason why the detainees now have more access to federal courts than they did before. But it is emblematic of the larger and much more destructive, seven-year-long sell-out of the legislative branch in the legal fight against terrorism.

And that emblem, thanks to the Supreme Court, now has John McCain’s face on it just in time for the run-up to the general election.

Then there’s Newt Gingrich, who makes sure that hyperbole is always in season, regardless of whether or not he’s running for office or selling a book or whatever it is that he does in retracing the steps of disgraced politicians like Richard Nixon. He told Chip Reid on Face the Nation that the decision was “worse than Dred Scott.”

This court decision is a disaster, which could cost us a city. And the debate ought to be over whether or not you’re prepared to risk losing an American city on behalf of five lawyers – it was a 5-4 decision. Five lawyers had decided that the Supreme Court counts more than the Congress and the president combined in national security.

Mr. Gingrich has the same sense of irony as President Bush; I don’t remember him objecting in 2000 when “five lawyers” decided that they count more than the state of Florida when it comes to counting votes, but then again, Mr. Gingrich’s hypocrisy is well-noted, especially when it comes to impeaching a president for adultery while committing it himself.

As for the decision “costing us a city,” where does he come up with this crap? How can a judicial ruling that prisoners are entitled to habeus corpus threaten national security? The two have nothing whatsoever to do with each other unless, of course, you’re a right-wing nutball who makes a habit of making a connection between liberals and mothers drowning their children.

But this kind of hyperventilation and fear-mongering is the GOP stock in trade, so it’s no surprise that both Mr. McCain and Mr. Gingrich are out there peddling it. And this isn’t the worst yet; it’s only June.