A Declaration of Independence
There has been in the last 24 hours much thoughtful commentary on Thursday's landmark terror-law ruling by the United States Supreme Court. The Post's own David Ignatius, for example, chimed in with good analysis and venerable Supreme Court reporter Lyle Denniston offered a really solid read on what the Justices did not decide in the case. Slate's Emily Bazelon also chimed in with another angle on the ruling that's worth reading. I could go on and on.
But in the end the decision is about one thing and one thing only: terrorism or no, we are still a nation of laws, and of rules, and of precedent, and of balanced government and that means that the President, or any president, doesn't get the final word on what is and what is not constitutional.
For those of you who believe that yesterday's ruling was another element to be included in the grand indictment of "judicial activism," think again. The result from the five Justices who voted in the majority was, Justice Scalia's dissent notwithstanding, a "conservative" ruling in the old-fashioned sense of the word. That's because the Court refused to recognize an expanded view of presidential power that had never before been pitched by any White House ever. It was the executive branch in this case which had sought to change hundreds of years of precedent. It was the Court which maintained the status quo and said no.
The detainees aren't going to be released. They aren't going to tie up the federal courts for years. They aren't getting more rights than you and I. Guantanamo Bay isn't going to be shuttered up like a boardwalk after Labor Day. All that will happen now is that the White House will have to accept the legal reality that it cannot process and prosecute these men out of Gitmo unless it affords them more due process than it originally wanted to. As Mick Jagger says, you can't always get what you want. But what the White House already has, in the form of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and its comprehensive rules, is a way to dispose of these men in a timely fashion so that Gitmo's infamous prison can soon be closed.
In other words, the other two branches don't have to create any single piece of new legislation to solve this problem. All the White House and Congress need to do to move forward is use the procedures already in place. To them I say: be not afraid. Just do it. Get it over with. Stop arguing about how few rights the men deserve. If they are guilty of anything surely a legitimate military court will say so (thus alleviating the need to use the kangaroo courts the Administration tried to sell to the Justices).
Thursday's ruling thus was an entirely fitting result on the eve of this Fourth of July weekend, when our nation's leading newspaper is being accused of treason by government officials, and when the air is thick with rancor over the meaning of patriotism and the role of the government. Too often recently we have seen examples of how the federal government is broken. On this occasion we should mark one of its successes.
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Posted by: Cujo359 | June 30, 2006 09:07 PM
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