“Governor Palin’s Worldview”… a thoughtful editorial from a New York Times contributor, 12 September, 2008.

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The following is an editorial piece published in the New York Times on Sept 12, 2008:

“Gov. Palin’s Worldview…”

“As we watched Sarah Palin on TV the last couple of days, we kept wondering what on earth John McCain was thinking.

If he seriously thought this first-term governor — with less than two years in office — was qualified to be president, if necessary, at such a dangerous time, it raises profound questions about his judgment. If the choice was, as we suspect, a tactical move, then it was shockingly irresponsible

It was bad enough that Ms. Palin’s performance in the first televised interviews she has done since she joined the Republican ticket was so visibly scripted and lacking in awareness.

What made it so much worse is the strategy for which the Republicans have made Ms. Palin the frontwoman: win the White House not on ideas, but by denigrating experience, judgment and qualifications.

The idea that Americans want leaders who have none of those things — who are so blindly certain of what Ms. Palin calls “the mission” that they won’t even pause for reflection — shows a contempt for voters and raises frightening questions about how Mr. McCain and Ms. Palin plan to run this country.

One of the many bizarre moments in the questioning by ABC News’s Charles Gibson was when Ms. Palin, the governor of Alaska, excused her lack of international experience by sneering that Americans don’t want “somebody’s big fat résumé maybe that shows decades and decades in that Washington establishment where, yes, they’ve had opportunities to meet heads of state.”

We know we were all supposed to think of Joe Biden. But it sure sounded like a good description of Mr. McCain. Those decades of experience earned the Arizona senator the admiration of people in both parties. They are why he was our preferred candidate in the Republican primaries.

The interviews made clear why Americans should worry about Ms. Palin’s thin résumé and lack of experience. Consider her befuddlement when Mr. Gibson referred to President Bush’s “doctrine” and her remark about having insight into Russia because she can see it from her state.

But that is not what troubled us most about her remarks — and, remember, if they were scripted, that just means that they reflect Mr. McCain’s views all the more closely. Rather, it was the sense that thoughtfulness, knowledge and experience are handicaps for a president in a world populated by Al Qaeda terrorists, a rising China, epidemics of AIDS, poverty and fratricidal war in the developing world and deep economic distress at home.

Ms. Palin talked repeatedly about never blinking. When Mr. McCain asked her to run for vice president? “You have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission,” she said, that “you can’t blink.”

Fighting terrorism? “We must do whatever it takes, and we must not blink, Charlie, in making those tough decisions of where we go and even who we target.”

Her answers about why she had told her church that President Bush’s failed policy in Iraq was “God’s plan” did nothing to dispel our concerns about her confusion between faith and policy. Her claim that she was quoting a completely unrelated comment by Lincoln was absurd.

This nation has suffered through eight years of an ill-prepared and unblinkingly obstinate president. One who didn’t pause to think before he started a disastrous war of choice in Iraq. One who blithely looked the other way as the Taliban and Al Qaeda regrouped in Afghanistan. One who obstinately cut taxes and undercut all efforts at regulation, unleashing today’s profound economic crisis.

In a dangerous world, Americans need a president who knows that real strength requires serious thought and preparation.”

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Supreme Court Barely affirms our Constitutional right to trial, soberingly narrow victory for keeping some of our Civil Liberties

Published: June 13, 2008

For years, with the help of compliant Republicans and frightened Democrats in Congress, President Bush has denied the protections of justice, democracy and plain human decency to the hundreds of men that he decided to label “unlawful enemy combatants” and throw into never-ending detention.

Twice the Supreme Court swatted back his imperial overreaching, and twice Congress helped Mr. Bush try to open a gaping loophole in the Constitution. On Thursday, the court turned back the most recent effort to subvert justice with a stirring defense of habeas corpus, the right of anyone being held by the government to challenge his confinement before a judge.

The court ruled that the detainees being held in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have that cherished right, and that the process for them to challenge their confinement is inadequate. It was a very good day for people who value freedom and abhor Mr. Bush’s attempts to turn Guantánamo Bay into a constitutional-rights-free zone.

The right of habeas corpus is so central to the American legal system that it has its own clause in the Constitution: it cannot be suspended except “when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.”

Despite this, the Bush administration repeatedly tried to strip away habeas rights. First, it herded prisoners who were seized in Afghanistan, and in other foreign countries, into the United States Navy base at Guantánamo Bay and claimed that since the base is on foreign territory, the detainees’ habeas cases could not be heard in the federal courts. In 2004, the court rejected that argument, ruling that Guantánamo, which is under American control, is effectively part of the United States.

In 2006, the court handed the administration another defeat, ruling that it had relied improperly on the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 to hold the detainees on Guantánamo without giving them habeas rights. Since then, Congress passed another law, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that tried — and failed horribly — to fix the problems with the Detainee Treatment Act.

Now, by a 5-to-4 vote, the court has affirmed the detainees’ habeas rights. The majority, in an opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy, ruled that the Military Commissions Act violates the Suspension Clause, by eliminating habeas corpus although the requirements of the Constitution — invasion or rebellion — do not exist.

The court ruled that the military tribunals that are hearing the detainees’ cases — the administration’s weak alternative to habeas proceedings in a federal court — are not an adequate substitute. The hearings cut back on basic due process protections, like the right to counsel and the right to present evidence of innocence.

It was disturbing that four justices dissented from this eminently reasonable decision. The lead dissent, by Chief Justice John Roberts, dismisses habeas as “most fundamentally a procedural right.” Chief Justice Roberts thinks the detainees receive such “generous” protections at their hearings that the majority should not have worried about whether they had habeas rights.

There is an enormous gulf between the substance and tone of the majority opinion, with its rich appreciation of the liberties that the founders wrote into the Constitution, and the what-is-all-the-fuss-about dissent. It is sobering to think that habeas hangs by a single vote in the Supreme Court of the United States — a reminder that the composition of the court could depend on the outcome of this year’s presidential election. The ruling is a major victory for civil liberties — but a timely reminder of how fragile they are.