Obama Defends Habeas Corpus
In the political equivalent of a “Man Bites Dog” story, Barack Obama, presidential candidate, actually contrasted himself with his opponent on the grounds that he would better protect liberty than McCain.
“I have said repeatedly that there should be no contradiction between keeping America safe and secure and respecting our Constitution,” Obama said. “During the Republican convention, you remember during the Republican convention, one of them, I don’t know if it was Rudy or Palin … they said, ‘Well, ya know, Sen. Obama is less interested in protecting you from terrorists than … reading them their rights.’”
But, the former constitutional law professor argued, “What I have also said is this: that when you suspend habeas corpus — which has been a principle, dating before even our country, it’s the foundation of Anglo-American law — which 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 reason you have that safeguard,” he said, “is because we don’t always have the right person. We don’t always catch the right person. We may think this is Mohammed the terrorist, it might be Mohammed the cab driver. You may 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,” Obama said as the crowd rose to its feet, applauding. “That’s what we’re protecting. Don’t mock the Constitution! Don’t make fun of it! Don’t suggest that it’s un-American to abide by what the founding fathers set up! It’s worked pretty well for over 200 years!”
Not only is this a nice, common sense defense of the essential right of habeas corpus, my mind is still reeling at the fact that a Presidential candidate is actually defending civil liberties that don’t involve the Second or First amendments in a real and powerful way. What’s next? An actual acknowledgment that the Ninth Amendment isn’t just a placeholder? A defense of enumerated powers? A recognition that the Commerce Clause doesn’t actually give the Feds the power to regulate anything they want?
Okay, probably not anytime soon. But a strong defense of habeas corpus is a good start. Man, if he keeps talking like this, my vote for Obama might not be on just “lesser of two evils” grounds.