One Vote Away from Constitutional Disaster


One Vote Away from Constitutional Disaster

For those of us who cherish civil liberties, the last thing we need is Sen. John McCain in the Oval Office. What many people don’t think about when pulling the lever in the voting booth is that the president appoints judges that control their lives – not only appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court, but up and down the federal judiciary.

Senator McCain’s “positions are nearly identical to the president’s on abortion and the types of judges he says he would appoint to the courts,” “How Close McCain Is to Bush Depends on the Issue,” New York Times, June 17, 2008.

President Bush’s arch-conservative choices for the Supreme Court are one vote away from a majority. One more appointment by either President Bush or Mr. McCain, if elected president, would mean a stunning reversal for human rights.

On June 12, 2008 the Supreme Court by just a 5-4 vote held that terror suspects held at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay could not be denied the right to file a habeas corpus petition to challenge why they were being held.

The news stories of the day claimed a great triumph for democracy. The linked piece is just one example of many television, radio and press stories that totally missed the point.

To anyone who claimed this was a “great triumph” or the like, that’s a frightening conclusion.

This decision was a near disaster.

Habeas corpus should be protected by a 9-0 vote.

This 5-4 decision mirrors the U.S. criminal justice system, which has the highest number of people behind bars in the world. Even more than in China. That is a stunning indictment of a “sink or swim” society and raises serious questions about the law that your courts are enforcing and just how uncivilized a society we have allowed the United States to have become. Law and order is fine, but for all the law, we don’t have much order.

The statute denying the historic protection of habeas corpus with the purpose of taking away the supervisory function of the courts was drafted and supported by John McCain. And his favorite judges – the kind he would appoint – voted against this necessary constitutional restraint on illegal government actions.

Chief Justice John Roberts, and associate justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas – whom Bush senior lied about when he said Thomas was the most qualified person he could appoint – all were the dissenters.

Thomas, Scalia, Alito and Roberts, our TSARs in waiting, would love to have just one more reactionary vote to chisel away more of the underpinnings of our Constitution and put an end to individual rights.

Here’s how it works for the TSARs: Business and government uber alles. Personal rights last.

In March a 4-4 split court in Warner-Lambert v. Kent didn’t have the five votes needed to take on the question whether a product liability claim could be brought be against a manufacturer of an FDA approved drug.

You were one vote away from losing your personal right to sue for personal injuries caused by dangerous drugs: Trasylol which causes kidney failure, Ortho Evra that causes stroke and heart attacks, MRI contrast solutions with gadolinium that are lethal for kidney patients, Zyprexa that causes diabetes and Vioxx the pain killer that kills. And those are just a few of the currently dangerous drugs without opening the archives.

With one more vote the United States Supreme Court could have granted legal immunity to pharmaceutical manufacturers on the legal theory that once a defective drugs had been approval by the FDA, even though proven to be unsafe and dangerous, no further questions can be asked in a court of law.

The TSARs wants to turn over total control of regulating drugs to the FDA, a proven administrative disaster, and allow drug companies to profit by selling highly questionable, and sometimes known dangerous drugs, without allowing victims a chance to hold them responsible in front of a judge and jury.

Don’t doubt for a minute that isn’t likely to happen.

That’s why we need a Democratic president.

Voters should stand proud of the voice they gave to Obama and Clinton. It was an historic race. Sen. Clinton made a spectacular run against a culture of misogyny and Sen. Obama proved it was the person, and not the color, that counted.

But it can be even more.

An Obama-Clinton ticket means more than the vote’s of18 million Clinton supporters and it’s more than merely seeking women to support the Democratic ticket. It would show Obama’s commitment to real change at two levels.

First, at a very personal level, Obama could show that to change the country he is willing to change himself.

Secondly, that leadership action would cement his position as the most committed Democratic leader since Franklin Roosevelt.

USA Today on June 10 2008 described on page one the changes on abortion, job bias, and campaign finance and racial polices that have occurred since the retirement of Sandra Day O’Connor from the Supreme Court in January 2006.

In short, Justice O’Connor’s legacy has faded.

Imagine how bad it would be with the next Supreme Court justice appointed by McCain, giving the TSARs a solid Supreme Court majority.

We are on the cusp.

A Democrat in the White House is a must.

An Obama-Clinton ticket guarantees a Democratic win – a win that we must have to protect ourselves against right-wing abuse on the Supreme Court and to preserve human rights.

This is not the time for risk. There is way too much to lose. There is so much to protect.

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