Friday, June 13, 2008

Squeakers

By Carol Gee

A very close call -- Yesterday the Supreme Court of the United States, by a vote that was a real squeaker, restored our most basic Constitutional right, habeas corpus. Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com via Memeorandum wrote the best article. It is titled, "Supreme Court restores habeas corpus, strikes down key part of Military Commissions Act." To quote the post's key opening and closing paragraphs:

In a major rebuke to the Bush administration's theories of presidential power -- and in an equally stinging rebuke to the bipartisan political class which has supported the Bush detention policies -- the U.S. Supreme Court today, in a 5-4 decision (.pdf), declared Section 7 of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 unconstitutional. The Court struck down that section of the MCA because it purported to abolish the writ of habeas corpus -- the means by which a detainee challenges his detention in a court -- despite the fact that the Constitution permits suspension of that writ only "in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion."

. . . UPDATE: Three of the five Justices in the majority -- John Paul Stevens (age 88), Ruth Bader Ginsburg (age 75) and David Souter (age 68) -- are widely expected by court observers to retire or otherwise leave the Court in the first term of the next President. By contrast, the four judges who dissented -- Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Sam Alito -- are expected to stay right where they are for many years to come.

John McCain has identified Roberts and Alito as ideal justices of the type he would nominate, while Barack Obama has identified Stephen Breyer, David Souter and Ginsberg (all in the majority today). It's not hyperbole to say that, from Supreme Court appointments alone, our core constitutional protections could easily depend upon the outcome of the 2008 election.

Almost too close to call -- by the end of the Democratic primary, it was a narrow win in the delegate count by Sentor Obama and a narrow win of the popular vote by Senator Clinton. Hillary Clinton started as the front runner in the campaign. By the end of the primary season, she had lost her lead though the race remained a squeaker. There are many guesses about why that happened. Many of her supporters believed that sexism was the reason. It is a close call according to this story from The New York Times (6/13/08): "Media and Critics Split Over Sexism in Clinton Coverage" (via Memeorandum). To quote:

Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic Party, who says he was slow to pick up on charges of sexism because he is not a regular viewer of cable television, is taking up the cause after hearing an outcry from what he described as a cross-section of women, from individual voters to powerful politicians and chief executives.

. . . Mike Barnicle, a panelist on MSNBC, said that Mrs. Clinton was “looking like everyone’s first wife standing outside a probate court.” Tucker Carlson, also on MSNBC, said, “When she comes on television, I involuntarily cross my legs.”

The establishment news media were faulted too. The New York Times wrote about Mrs. Clinton’s “cackle” and The Washington Post wrote about her cleavage.

Ken Rudin, an editor at National Public Radio, appeared on CNN, where he equated Mrs. Clinton with the actress Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction.” “She’s going to keep coming back, and they’re not going to stop her," Mr. Rudin said. He later apologized.

Call it like it is -- Whether it was sexism or something else that caused Senator Clinton to lose the contest, even those of us who did not vote for her owe her a great deal of credit. This list of credits owed from Tapped sounds reasonable: "Seven changes we owe Hillary Clinton." Her accomplishments include: being a front-runner who stood for women, forced talk about sexism, united Democrats on Iraq, figured out health care, engaged everybody until the end, provided national security leadership, and broadened the question of Progressives and race. I believe that Senator Clinton will keep her word and help Democrats come together.

Calling for Unity, Action Day -- The Democratic party has been working to maintain party unity from the beginning, though those efforts occasionally got derailed. But now is the right time to call again for closing ranks and working together for a victory in November. Democracy for America says they have a plan:

Everyone from Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton to Howard Dean and Speaker Pelosi are asking for Democrats to unite.

Now is the time to take the next step. Together, DFA members across the country will turn words into action on June 21. We will start the process of bringing Democrats together by reaching out to our friends and neighbors and asking them to unite for a progressive victory in November.

Squeakers cause anxiety. Two such as the SCOTUS decision and the Democratic primary remind us of what is at stake for the country this year. If we remain focused on the goals of the party to win Republican contests to be decided in the fall, we need not be overly anxious about any other squeakers as they come along.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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