Setting the Record Straight

June 14, 2008

McCain’s Un-American Activities

McCain a Change? Not So Far

     Presidential candidates often paint themselves in shades of gray so they can attract the lowest common denominator eligible to vote. Often, this means obfuscating their positions on controversial subjects.

     Barack Obama, by being a freshman senator who has cam-paigned for president for most of his time in the U.S. Senate, has laid down little national record on which he can be judged.

     John McCain has done and said a lot, and much of it already is being closely examined. Obama has the luxury of pointing fingers at the opposition for taking positions he never had to take. John McCain does not. That situation is somewhat unbalanced, but those are the kinds of conflicts candidates have to face.

     One of these issues already has come home to haunt McCain. He paints a different picture, but the Supreme Court, the majority members of which were appointed by his own Republican Party, has rejected one of his major positions.

     McCain’s campaign site strangely uses only generalities about his efforts to combat terrorism. This immodesty is uncharacter-istic of a presidential candidate, and an examination of the issue and the Supreme Court’s take on it suggests why that is.

     Three years after the loony U.S. inva-sion of Iraq, McCain helped author the 2006 Military Commissions Act, which established procedures for denying “terrorist” detainees access to federal courts, i.e, the habeas corpus guarantee of the U.S. Constitution, the only right included in the body of the document (the rest were added as the Bill of Rights amendments). McCain and his Senate colleagues demonstrated no interest in another American standard, that a person is pre-sumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law.

     The usual argument in this case was the United States cannot afford to turn loose a terrorist and give him a chance to act again, so it had to take drastic actions. Under our legal system, judges quite often have been able to either deny bail or set bail so high it cannot be met by those charged with abominable crimes, so that is no argument.

     Despite the fact the deciding vote among 5-4 justices who struck down that law was cast by a justice appointed by Repub-licans, McCain denounced the decision as one of the worst in history.

     As McCain justifies the law, those being detained in Quantan-amo are “enemy combatants,” even before they have been adjud-icated by the U.S. court system to be so.

     One of the worst sins of the Bush administration has been the way it has chosen to combat terrorism, by abrogating the privacy rights of ordinary citizens and denying the guarantees of our U.S. Constitution, the finest example of democracy in the world, to citizens and aliens alike.

     If McCain wishes to paint himself as a presidential candidate who would not be a carbon copy of the one still in office, his failure to express a mea culpa for his role in Boumediene v Bush smeared that tint.

     And there is lots more fallout to come in correcting the Bush mess. How McCain responds to those corrections will be telling enough about how he would serve as president.

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