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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Lieberman Tries, Fails to Save McCain from Himself

McCain and Lieberman53 hours after Faisal Shahzad tried to set off a bomb in Times Square, he found himself in custody. This was on May third. On May fourth, The Hill ran the headline, "McCain: 'Serious mistake' if car bombing suspect was Mirandized." Neither the arrest nor the over-the-top reaction from the right took very long. At this point, it's pretty clear that -- no matter how successful an investigation into terrorism is -- some rightwinger is going to have a problem with it, because President Obama can't do anything right. The president could've sent a team back in time to take out Shahzad before he committed his crime and John McCain would complain that he was allowed to be born. The Republican Party's strategy has been to oppose everything and anything this president does and none have taken this strategy more to heart than John Sidney McCain. A man of irrational temper, McCain holds a grudge the way Gollum held his Precious. So, if Obama does anything, it's automatically the wrong thing. And it's John McCain who knows what's the right thing.

Except, as is so often the case, McCain's idea of "the right thing" is stupid beyond words. "Obviously that would be a serious mistake... at least until we find out as much information we have," McCain told Don Imus of Mirandizing Shahzad. "Don't give this guy his Miranda rights until we find out what it's all about."

See, here's the problem: being read your rights doesn't actually give you any rights you don't already have. Reciting the Miranda text -- "You have the right to remain silent..." -- merely informs you of your rights. So McCain's argument about "giving this guy his Miranda rights" is just plain dumb. Or is McCain arguing that there's no way for Shahzad to know his rights without being informed of them by the arresting officer? Because that would require us to believe that an American citizen never watched TV. Everyone knows their Miranda rights. Except, apparently, John McCain. Withholding the Miranda text would accomplish exactly nothing... Well, other than make sure that any confessions Shahzad gave would be inadmissible in court. I'm pretty sure that's a bad thing.

So, if McCain -- in the middle of a tough reelection fight -- said something dumb, that would be bad. McCain has a tightrope to walk here; he has to be just crazy enough and seem just ignorant enough to win the wingnut purity test of the Arizona Republican primary, but not so crazy or ignorant that he winds up spending most of his time in the general distancing himself from it all. Even in Arizona, the voters in the general election aren't as goofy as the voters in the primary.

To the rescue rides McCain's best campaign buddy, Joe Lieberman. John McCain makes a valid point, Joe says, people have way too many rights. The Supreme Court ruled in the Miranda case that not informing people of their rights was akin to denying them. And, since the Fifth Amendment protects you against having to incriminate yourself, clearly this is the problem. Maybe we ought to take away terrorist suspects' citizenship -- then they wouldn't have all these rights.

Which, of course, is wrong. Here's the text of the Fifth:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

So, unless you want to argue that only American citizens (and corporations) are "persons," Lieberman's idea solves absolutely none of the problems Joe and John want fixed. And never mind that, Mirandized or not, Shahzad's been singing like a bird, a problem doesn't have to actually exist in order to be fixed.

That fix comes in the form of legislation that would allow the US government to strip citizens of their citizenship. This way, they won't get those pesky rights -- which they have regardless -- and we don't have to worry about trying them in court -- which we would still have do. According to Greg Sargent, "You would still have the right to contest this in court. And if you did, the burden of proof would be on State -- not on you -- to persuade the court that your involvement with a terror organization is sufficient to justify taking away your citizen status."

"Bottom line: Lieberman's law can't keep you out of court against your will if you want to contest efforts to strip your citizenship," Sargent continues. "And chances are that if you were already facing other charges -- plotting or executing a terrorist act -- you would be simultaneously tried for that in civilian court, too, even as State continued to try to revoke your citizen status."

So there's your solution, a big pile of nuthin'. It wouldn't take away any rights, it wouldn't keep anyone out of court, it wouldn't even solve the made-up problems identified by Lieberman and McCain. The only problem it solves it solves by putting a fig leaf over McCain's kneejerk idiocy. But at least the wingnuts in the Republican primary will be mollified.

Or not. Lieberman's legislation gives the power to the State Department to do all this citizenship-stripping; i.e., the executive branch. John McCain and Joe Lieberman will be giving Obama -- who the Republican base thinks is a  Communist/Fascist Kenyan/Indonesian Pretender to the Throne intent on destroying America and is maybe even the Antichrist -- the power to strip people of their citizenship because someone says they're a terrorist. The teabaggers have convinced themselves that Obama thinks they're all terrorists, so you can imagine all the lunacy this would unleash. This doesn't seem to have occurred to the teabaggers yet, but they're slow on the uptake. Give them a minute. It'll come to them eventually. Someone like Sarah Palin won't catch it, but someone like Michelle Malkin will.

And how will this play in the Arizona Republican primary? You don't have to be a genius to figure that one out. You just have to be smarter than Joe Lieberman and John McCain.


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1 comment:

vet said...

I'm not a legal expert, but I'm pretty sure you can't "revoke" citizenship. The 14th Amendment defines who is a citizen, and it makes no provision for reversing the process.

Which makes this proposal pure grandstanding - designed solely to get its proposers on TV. So I guess it's working pretty well.