Sen. Barack Obama delivered an impassioned defense of the Constitution and the rights of terrorism suspects tonight, striking back at one of the biggest applause lines in Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s speech to the GOP convention.
It was in St. Paul last week that Palin drew raucous cheers when she delivered this put-down of Obama: “Al-Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America and he’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights.”
Obama had a few problems with that.
“First of all, you don’t even get to read them their rights until you catch ’em,” Obama said here, drawing laughs from 1,500 supporters in a high school gymnasium. “They should spend more time trying to catch Osama bin Laden and we can worry about the next steps later.”
If the plotters of the Sept. 11 attacks are in the government’s sights, Obama went on, they should be targeted and killed.
“My position has always been clear: If you’ve got a terrorist, take him out,” Obama said. “Anybody who was involved in 9/11, take ’em out.”
But Obama, who taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago for more than a decade, said captured suspects deserve to file writs of habeus corpus.
Calling it “the foundation of Anglo-American law,” he said the principle “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.'”
Editor’s Comment — This is a contest to decide who on January 20, 2009, gets to pledge that he will “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
For the last seven years the Republicans (with an unconscionable degree of acquiescence on the part of Democrats) have been chipping away at the foundations of American democracy. It’s time for Obama — empowered with his experience as a constitutional scholar — to run with this theme. Defending the constitution is the most solemn pledge that a president makes. Political consultants might say that this is too high-minded to have popular appeal, but however ignorant much of the electorate might be, the idea that America and its constitution are indivisible, resonates even among those who can’t explain what that means.
America can’t afford to have another president who’s soft on the Constitution.
John McCain announced that he was running for president to confront the “transcendent challenge” of the 21st century, “radical Islamic extremism,” contrasting it with “stability, tolerance and democracy.” But the values of his handpicked running mate, Sarah Palin, more resemble those of Muslim fundamentalists than they do those of the Founding Fathers. On censorship, the teaching of creationism in schools, reproductive rights, attributing government policy to God’s will and climate change, Palin agrees with Hamas and Saudi Arabia rather than supporting tolerance and democratic precepts. What is the difference between Palin and a Muslim fundamentalist? Lipstick.
McCain pledged to work for peace based on “the transformative ideals on which we were founded.” Tolerance and democracy require freedom of speech and the press, but while mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, Palin inquired of the local librarian how to go about banning books that some of her constituents thought contained inappropriate language. She tried to fire the librarian for defying her. Book banning is common to fundamentalisms around the world, and the mind-set Palin displayed did not differ from that of the Hamas minister of education in the Palestinian government who banned a book of Palestinian folk tales for its sexually explicit language. In contrast, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Our liberty cannot be guarded but by the freedom of the press, nor that be limited without danger of losing it.”
The next president must do one thing, and one thing only, if he is to be judged a success: He must prevent Al Qaeda, or a Qaeda imitator, from gaining control of a nuclear device and detonating it in America. Everything else — Fannie Mae, health care reform, energy independence, the budget shortfall in Wasilla, Alaska — is commentary. The nuclear destruction of Lower Manhattan, or downtown Washington, would cause the deaths of thousands, or hundreds of thousands; a catastrophic depression; the reversal of globalization; a permanent climate of fear in the West; and the comprehensive repudiation of America’s culture of civil liberties.
Editor’s Comment — When Jeffrey Goldberg, or anyone else, gravely pronounces that preventing a nuclear attack on America is a supreme responsibility for the next president, it’s hard to dispute — but I will.
Would the global significance of a terrorist nuclear attack be any less if the target was Paris, or Istanbul, or Tel Aviv, or New Delhi?
America could take no comfort if it happens not to be the target and the fact that the attack could (and in fact is more likely) to occur elsewhere merely underlines that a global threat of this kind demands an international response. In this — as in confronting global warming — success or failure hinges on the ability to develop and sustain international cooperation. “United we stand” has to be more than a patriotic rallying cry; it has to be a recognition and expression of collective interests.
Seven years later, it remains conventional wisdom here that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda could not have been solely responsible for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and that the United States and Israel had to have been involved in their planning, if not their execution, too.
This is not the conclusion of a scientific survey, but it is what routinely comes up in conversations around the region — in a shopping mall in Dubai, in a park in Algiers, in a cafe in Riyadh and all over Cairo.
“Look, I don’t believe what your governments and press say. It just can’t be true,” said Ahmed Issab, 26, a Syrian engineer who lives and works in the United Arab Emirates. “Why would they tell the truth? I think the U.S. organized this so that they had an excuse to invade Iraq for the oil.”
It is easy for Americans to dismiss such thinking as bizarre. But that would miss a point that people in this part of the world think Western leaders, especially in Washington, need to understand: That such ideas persist represents the first failure in the fight against terrorism — the inability to convince people here that the United States is, indeed, waging a campaign against terrorism, not a crusade against Muslims.
John McCain’s campaign acknowledged this weekend that Sarah Palin is unprepared to be vice president or president of the United States.
Of course, McCain’s people said no such thing. But their actions told you all you needed to know.
McCain, Barack Obama and Joe Biden all subjected themselves to tough questioning on the regular Sunday news programs. Palin was the only no-show. And it’s not just the Sunday interviews. She has not opened herself to any serious questioning since McCain picked her to be next in line for the presidency.
The Bridge to Nowhere argument isn’t going much of anywhere.
Despite significant evidence to the contrary, the McCain campaign continues to assert that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin told the federal government “thanks but no thanks” to the now-famous bridge to an island in her home state.
The McCain campaign released a television advertisement Monday morning titled “Original Mavericks.” The narrator of the 30-second spot boasts about the pair: “He fights pork-barrel spending. She stopped the Bridge to Nowhere.”
Gov. Palin, who John McCain named as his running mate less than two weeks ago, quickly adopted a stump line bragging about her opposition to the pork-barrel project Sen. McCain routinely decries.
But Gov. Palin’s claim comes with a serious caveat. She endorsed the multimillion dollar project during her gubernatorial race in 2006. And while she did take part in stopping the project after it became a national scandal, she did not return the federal money. She just allocated it elsewhere.
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has billed taxpayers for 312 nights spent in her own home during her first 19 months in office, charging a “per diem” allowance intended to cover meals and incidental expenses while traveling on state business.
The governor also has charged the state for travel expenses to take her children on official out-of-town missions. And her husband, Todd, has billed the state for expenses and a daily allowance for trips he makes on official business for his wife.
Palin, who earns $125,000 a year, claimed and received $16,951 as her allowance, which officials say was permitted because her official “duty station” is Juneau, according to an analysis of her travel documents by The Washington Post.
The Israeli Attorney General has been urged to launch a criminal investigation into whether Shaul Mofaz, a leading prime ministerial candidate, ordered “war crimes” to be committed when he was the military’s chief of staff.
A leading Israeli law professor has written to justice officials, calling for the investigation into claims – highlighted by The Independent last month – that during a briefing to army officers in May 2001, after the start of the second Palestinian uprising, Mr Mofaz ordered a daily “quota” of Palestinian deaths.
Last night, Israeli police recommended to prosecutors that the Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, be indicted in a corruption investigation. With Mr Olmert committed to resigning after his Kadima party holds a leadership vote a week today, the recommendation will have no immediate impact on his tenure and does not guarantee an indictment by the Attorney General.
The Bush administration, after considerable internal debate, has decided not to take direct punitive action against Russia for its conflict with Georgia, concluding that it has little leverage if it acts unilaterally and that it would be better off pressing for a chorus of international criticism to be led by Europe.
In recent interviews, senior administration officials said the White House had concluded that American punishments like economic sanctions or blocking Russia from world trade groups would only backfire, deepening Russia’s intransigence and allowing the Kremlin to narrow the regional and global implications of its invasion of Georgia to an old-fashioned Washington-Moscow dispute.
Even as they vowed to work with allies, administration officials conceded that they wished the European Union had been willing to take firmer action than issuing tepid statements criticizing Russia’s conduct. But the officials said the benefits of remaining part of a united front made it prudent for the United States to accept the softer approach advocated by Italy and Germany, among other allies.
In the month since the Russian invasion of Georgia, the Bush administration has crafted a policy that should please some liberal critics and upset conservative hard-liners — a low-key approach that tries to help the Georgians recover without backing Russia further into a corner.
The Georgia strategy is premised on working jointly with European allies, and on avoiding the sort of unilateral U.S. military threats that would scare them off. It is also tempered by the administration’s earlier mistakes in dealing with mercurial Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, which set the stage for his unwise Aug. 8 attack on South Ossetia that provoked the punishing Russian reaction.
It’s a policy, in short, that distills some of the foreign-policy lessons learned at the shank end of the Bush presidency. And its contours, interestingly enough, arguably are closer to the thrust of Barack Obama’s initial, cautious reaction to the Georgia crisis than to the more confrontational approach of John McCain.
Gathered in the domed hall of a palace built by Saddam Hussein, Awakening Council leaders in the Adhamiya neighborhood met with Iraqi and American military officers on Monday to learn what the future holds for them once the Sunni-dominated citizen patrols begin reporting to the Iraqi government on Oct. 1.
About 75 leaders and rank-and-file members from the western side of the neighborhood listened and murmured as Brig. Gen. Tarek Abdul Hameed explained what would happen when responsibility for paying and directing 54,000 Awakening patrol members in and around Baghdad was transferred from the Americans to the Iraqi government.
The meeting, the Iraqi and American officers said, was called in part to quash rumors that there would be mass arrests of Awakening members and that American forces would no longer be involved with the patrols.