Friday, June 13, 2008

Thank You Justice Kennedy

Ever so often, just when I feel like this country's government has spun completely out of control, something happens that restores my faith in our system. One such event happened yesterday with the Supreme Court ruling on a 5-4 majority that the detainees held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba have an inherent constitutional right to challenge their detention in U.S. courts.The ruling was 5-4, with the majority votes coming from Justices Souter, Ginsberg, Stevens, Breyer and Kennedy.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority said the following: "The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times," Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority in the case known as Boumediene v. Bush. "To hold that the political branches may switch the Constitution on or off at will would lead to a regime in which they, not this court, say 'what the law is,' " Kennedy added.
Indeed and well spoken Justice Kennedy. We are by establisment a nation governed by the rule of law. Even in extraordinary circumstances, which I submit we are not in, the rule of law should take precedence over any single individual's opinion, directive or policy.
The Bush administration expectedly indicated their dissapointment with the ruling with the president saying that "He would abide by the ruling even though he disagreed with it." He also stated that he may seek legislative remedy to the court's decision. Fine, so be it. Mr. President, you have seemingly forgot that you are sworn to uphold and protect the Constitution. That is your sworn duty, pledged in front of the American people and to the God you so often invoke. You have for the sake of "security", whittled away at the constitutional checks and balances that men much smarter than you, me and many others carefully constructed to keep tyranny at bay. However, the administration's response is not surprising. This is after all an administration who's leader proclaimed the Constution as "Just a Goddamn piece of Paper".
More dissapointing however is the response, written for posterity one of the dissenting opinions by Justice Antonin Scalia, the conservative bulwark of the right-wing component of the Court. Justice Scalia said: "that the Boumedienne ruling "will almost certainly cause more Americans to get killed." Scalia warned, "The nation will live to regret what the court has done today."
Really? Will we regret upholding the rule of law? Even if, for some completely obtuse reasoning I don't understand, restoring the writ of habeus corpus may in some form or fashion wind up causing the death of an American, which seems completely ridiculous to me, do we not have a responsibility to stay true to the law? Do we have carte blanche then to violate or ignore every legal tenet on which we've built the nation? If we decide tomorrow that the President must have the ability to wage war or attack another country because of the fear of a perceived threat that he or she no longer have to get authorization from Congress in order to attack, is this simply OK?
I think not. Attributed to Benjamin Franklin, and I think very germane to this discussion is this quote: "Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither". I believe it sums up the point I am trying to make very well. We were given the gift of a Constitution developed by men who had lived under the heavy yoke of tyranny and lack of self-determination.
The genius of our "National Experiment" as George Washington termed our newly formed government, is that it was constructed to adapt and to sustain itself as long as we stay true to the principles by which it was established. The checks and balances developed by the founders was one of the greatest gifts a people could receive. It will provide us with a wall of security that tyrants and demagouge's will not be able to penetrate. That is if we as the people who consent to be governed are wise enough to keep it.
Tell me what you think,

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