Democratic Convention 2008

Where Credit is Due

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OK, so the Democratic Party Platform isn't interested in rolling back any of the Fourth Amendment-shredding and drug war-expanding that generations of Democrats have been culpable in, but there are some civil libertarian ideas in the document, mostly tied in with executive power expansion and Bush Administration policies in the War on Terror. Here's a relevant (and good) chunk:

As we combat terrorism, we must not sacrifice the American values we are fighting to protect. In recent years, we've seen an Administration put forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand. The Democratic Party rejects this dichotomy. We will restore our constitutional traditions, and recover our nation's founding commitment to liberty under law.

We support constitutional protections and judicial oversight on any surveillance program involving Americans. We will review the current Administration's warrantless wiretapping program. We reject illegal wiretapping of American citizens, wherever they live. We reject the use of national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime. We reject the tracking of citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war. We reject torture. We reject sweeping claims of "inherent" presidential power. We will revisit the Patriot Act and overturn unconstitutional executive decisions issued during the past eight years. We will not use signing statements to nullify or undermine duly enacted law. […]

We will not ship away prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far off countries, or detain without trial or charge prisoners who can and should be brought to justice for their crimes, or maintain a network of secret prisons to jail people beyond the reach of the law. We will respect the time-honored principle of habeas corpus, the seven century-old right of individuals to challenge the terms of their own detention that was recently reaffirmed by our Supreme Court. We will close the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, the location of so many of the worst constitutional abuses in recent years. With these necessary changes, the attention of the world will be directed where it belongs: on what terrorists have done to us, not on how we treat suspects.

I just wish some of that righteous principle would be brought to bear on the more widespread domestic civil-libertarian concerns such as eminent domain abuse, the federalization of crime, the regulation of political speech, and various obscenity crackdowns. What the Founders warned us about wartime power-grabbing has equal relevance to domestic and urban policy as well.

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  1. With these necessary changes, the attention of the world will be directed where it belongs: on what terrorists have done to us, not on how we treat suspects.

    What horseshit. Our treatment of illegal combatants was never more than a convenient pretext for those opposed to American intervention in the Mideast. Very few of those who have used this as a distraction from what the terrorists do wouldn’t have found another distraction, if this issue hadn’t been handy.

  2. I’m forced to concede that coming out against torture, puts the Democrats in stark contrast to the Republicans, and it’s a significant issue.

  3. R C Dean,
    I call horseshit on your horseshit. US prisoner abuse was a page one story that motivated a shitload of people to take a stand that previously took only a passing interest. No other “handy pretext” could have drawn so many off the sidelines.

  4. Yeah….right….no more Patriot Act…..

  5. It is encouraging that they are at least saying the right things. I suppose having the evil Republicans around saves Democrats from doing much introspection about their own faults.

  6. Talk is cheap. Talk from politicians is less than cheap, it’s fucking zero.

  7. We reject illegal wiretapping of American citizens, wherever they live. We reject the use of national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime. We reject the tracking of citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war. We reject torture. We reject sweeping claims of “inherent” presidential power. We will revisit the Patriot Act and overturn unconstitutional executive decisions issued during the past eight years. We will not use signing statements to nullify or undermine duly enacted law.

    I bet Bush would say he’s on the same page. For example, he never did “illegal” wiretapping, just legal wiretapping. He’s only used national security letters on people he suspected of a crime. And torture? Hell, if Vanity Fair does it to Christopher Hitchens, it ain’t torture.

    Episiarch was a lot more succinct about summing this up.

  8. Excellent post Matt. The section quoted here is one of the few positions in the DNC platform that is actually good. It sounds like it came straight from the ACLU.

  9. No other “handy pretext” could have drawn so many off the sidelines.

    Although neither of us can prove our case, I don’t think the “prisoner abuse” cases drew anyone off the sidelines, or changed anyone’s mind on whether the war was justified. I think they were a handy stick for those predisposed to oppose the US in the Middle East; no more, and no less.

    I don’t think there’s a single country that left off supporting us because of Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, or a single country that would have started supporting us halfway through the war if it wasn’t for Abu Ghraib and Gitmo.

  10. Anyone else see a discrepancy between a party railing against the abuse of executive authority and a party calls it’s presidential candidate ‘The One’ while advocating a massive increase in the size of the government, enforced civil service, etc.? The left has been no friend to civil liberties in this country, and the odds of them actually slashing executive power once their guy is in the oval office is exactly zero.

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