Tipping point 2.0
As predicted in a post below, the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate are navigating an electoral and constitutional minefield on the issues of torture, detention, and trials of persons suspected of terrorist activity. The minefield was created by the Republicans who control the executive branch and Congress.
Some see this situation as the result of an elaborate charade of "good cop/bad cop" (or more accurately, "horrible cop/less horrible cop") that has suckered cautious Democrats into a position that blows them up whatever they choose to do. Others see an unfortunate but sincere clash of political and policy priorities in both parties that just happens to pose an awkward situation for outnumbered Democratic senators.*
Whichever it is, this is the bottom line:
Senate majority leader Bill Frist is determined to bring to a floor vote this week a bill that would legalize torture, both in the future and retroactively, and which denies habeas corpus rights to non-citizens held by the U.S. There is little to no indication that the Democrats are prepared to filibuster the bill. They appear to be banking on the help of "allies" like Arlen Specter (R-PA, chair of the Judiciary Committee) to run out the clock -- either by keeping it in committee long enough to prevent a floor vote or by attaching an amendment to restore habeas rights to detainees.
So, in order to preserve habeas, the most fundamental right in our system of law, we must support an amendment attached to a bill that would immunize Bush from war crimes charges. Quite a devil's bargain, eh?
Grit your teeth, pray for Democratic majorities in the next Congress, and call/fax/email/visit your Senators to insist on passage of the Specter-Levin amendment to preserve habeas corpus for detainees. This is particularly urgent if either of your Senators are members of the Judiciary Committee.
Image: Protesters at this morning's Judiciary Committee hearing to consider habeas rights in tribunal/torture legislation. AP photo.
*Update: 10:20 am 26 Sept - My mind's made up on which it is. The exact parallel between the Republicans' kabuki dance on torture and the one around the NSA eavesdropping bill leaves little room for doubt. See this excellent Glenn Greenwald post [Salon - ad] from last Friday:
In each instance, Republican lawmakers are advocating a radical outcome that vests extraordinary powers in the president. But because their legislative approach for achieving that end in each case is slightly less radical than the president's, the media depicts their proposal as moderate and mild. Meanwhile, the Democrats are silent, invisible and completely absent from the debates, which means that the full range of views is marked by the president on one end and right-wing Republican senators on the other end (only millimeters away from the president), with the "middle" being as close to the president's position as one can get without embracing it in full.There's also the fact that on Friday, the Republican leaders introduced three versions of the bills with which the party hopes to bludgeon Democratic members in a floor vote: the torture "compromise" (S.3930), the eavesdropping "compromise" (S.3931), and the two combined (S.3929). This is for the tactical convenience of Senate