Tuesday, August 09, 2005


I recently read an excellent piece of work by Correa concerning Judge Coughenour, whose proclamation about the importance of the Constitution as applied to terror trials was roundly criticized by right-wingers who enthusiastically prefer junta-style military tribunals.

This got me to thinking about how important the constution is to those of the Republican persuasion. It wasn't very long ago, after all, that Bill Frist was trying, at Dobson's behest, to eliminate the ability to filibuster judicial nominees, after re-christening the move the "Constitutional option"--so called because in their logic, or lack thereof, the Constitution's mandate to the Senate to "advise and consent" on nominees guarantees an up-or-down vote on each one. The right-wingers had, at that time, a seeming respect for the lettering of the Constitution.

Or, more strikingly, take the abortion debate. We all know that the anti-choice crowd's more fundamental argument for overturning Roe v. Wade stands not on the intrinsic merits of the Roe decision itself, but rather on the Griswold v. Connecticut case that established the right to a reasonable expectation privacy as a right not explicitly expressed in the Constitution, but definitely discernible from an intentionalist point of view, based on a bunch of other "circumstantial evidence" found within the Constitution, such as safeguards against unreasonable search and seizure. According to them (and you can find this argument against privacy stated in this Rich Lowry Piece on the National Review Online), since the Constitution doesn't explicitly speak to the question of abortion and a right to privacy, said rights and privileges do not exist.

We see here a profound respect for the Constitution's literal words on these two issues, despite how wrong they may or may not be. So why don't these people have an equal degree of respect for the very literal words of the constitution when it comes to the right to trial, the right to legal counsel and the right to face one's accuser? Why is it that we have the "Constitutional Option" and "Strict Constructionists", but Judge Coughenour is accused of being a traitorous terrorist sympathizer for pointing out the positive results with regard to intelligence-gathering and law enforcement that emerged from Ressum's trial?

I think that the common ground isn't based on principle, constitutional or otherwise--it's based on a desire to see people suffer for crimes real or imagined, and whatever arguments can be brought to bear to accomplish this objective--regardless of how contradictory they may be when juxtaposed--will be brought to bear to accomplish this goal.

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