There's a lot about John McCain that scares me, starting with his unrelenting support for the invasion and occupation of Iraq and his willingness to commit American troops to that disaster far into the distant future. But something he said yesterday demonstrates with unnerving precision just how horrible a president he would be.
On 12 June 2008, the United States Supreme Court ruled, in a narrow, 5-4 decision, that habeas corpus still means something in this country. The court declared that prisoners at Guantánamo can go before an American judge to try to find out why they are imprisoned. Note carefully: this decision does NOT say that any prisoners should be released. It merely upholds the principal of habeas corpus, the only civil liberty mentioned in the US Constitution before the Bill of Rights.
What is habeas corpus? It is a simple, wonderful thing. It means that the government can't lock you up without saying why. A lot of loudmouths on the right will claim that this Supreme Court decision will lead to wholesale release of terrorists, that it endangers Americans. They'll say it means being soft on the guilty. This is utter bullshit. This decision means simply that our country is governed by law and not by presidential whim. Habeas corpus is the absolute foundation of liberty. Without it, there is no United States of America.
It is therefore profoundly disturbing to read that John McCain told a town-hall meeting in New Jersey that the Supreme Court “rendered a decision yesterday that I think is one of the worst decisions in the history of this country" (see here). McCain and his handlers have obviously decided that this issue plays well with the right-wing fanatics that are the bedrock of lingering (and diminishing) support for Bush and his assault on the Constitution. McCain is pandering to the lunatic fringe of American politics. More important, this tells us clearly what sort of judges McCain would appoint to the Supreme Court--more wingnuts like John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, and Antonin Scalia, who voted to suspend habeas corpus, in clear violation of the spirit and intent of our Constitution.
There are many reasons why a John McCain presidency is something we should fear and do everything we can to prevent. His callous and opportunistic indifference to the American faith in the rule of law is now at the top of the list.