Friday, June 13, 2008

Civil liberties (and Barack Obama, of course)

After yesterday's SCOTUS 5-4 decision preserving Guantanamo detainees' right to habeas corpus, the NYT editorial states:
"It is sobering to think that habeas hangs by a single vote in the Supreme Court of the United States — a reminder that the composition of the court could depend on the outcome of this year’s presidential election. The ruling is a major victory for civil liberties — but a timely reminder of how fragile they are."

As Jeffrey Rosen wrote in an NYT op-ed earlier, Senator Obama may well become the first civil libertarian President. Rosen's similar TNR article (subscription required, via Rojas at The Crossed Pond) starts off:
"If Barack Obama were to win the Democratic nomination and the White House, he would be, among other things, our first civil libertarian president. This is clear not just from his lifetime rating on the ACLU's scorecard (82 percent compared to John McCain's 25 percent). It is clear from the fact that civil liberties have been among his most passionate interests--as a constitutional law professor, state legislator, and senator. On the campaign trail, he has been unapologetic about these enthusiasms. In New Hampshire, I heard him end a rousing stump speech by promising the cheering crowd, "We will close Guantánamo, we will restore habeas corpus, we will have a president who will respect and obey the Constitution." Has a political consultant ever urged a candidate to brandish habeas corpus?"

Rojas, a self-described McCain supporter, takes off from Rosen's TNR article to say Obama is better than McCain on civil liberties, and that libertarian conservatives must be prepared to support Obama on this issue. Rojas, "as a very rigid constructionist and skeptic of judicial authority," suggests civil liberties protections need a mass movement and not judicial intervention - which an Obama presidency is poised to do.

Here's Senator Obama on the PATRIOT Act Reauthorization (2006), his campaign platform on civil rights (which points out, as the first problem, that women, and particularly minority women, make much less than men for the same work), and selected candidates on civil rights.

Finally, Cass Sunstein decribes Obama as a "visionary minimalist" (subscription required, I think). Will read and expand on the Sunstein and Rosen articles later.

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