“The worst Supreme Court decision” ever

John McCain shows himself to be as ignorant of Supreme Court history as he is of reasonable tax policy with his recent comments about last week's decision on the Guantanamo detainees.  George Will, of all people, rakes him over the coals in today's column.  (Though I usually disagree with George Will, he is no Republican hack and gets things spot-on on occasion).  Anyway, to Will:

The day after the Supreme Court ruled that detainees imprisoned at Guantanamo are entitled to seek habeas corpus hearings, John McCain called it “one of the worst decisions in the history of this country.” Well.

Does it rank with Dred Scott v. Sanford
(1857), which concocted a constitutional right, unmentioned in the
document, to own slaves and held that black people have no rights that
white people are bound to respect? With Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which affirmed the constitutionality of legally enforced racial segregation? With Korematsu v. United States (1944), which affirmed the wartime right to sweep American citizens of Japanese ancestry into concentration camps?

Did McCain's extravagant condemnation of the court's habeas ruling
result from his reading the 126 pages of opinions and dissents? More
likely, some clever ignoramus convinced him that this decision could
make the Supreme Court — meaning, which candidate would select the
best judicial nominees — a campaign issue…

The purpose of a writ of habeas corpus is to cause a government to
release a prisoner or show through due process why the prisoner should
be held. Of Guantanamo's approximately 270 detainees, many certainly
are dangerous “enemy combatants.” Some probably are not. None will be released by
the court's decision, which does not even guarantee a right to a
hearing. Rather, it guarantees only a right to request a hearing.
Courts retain considerable discretion regarding such requests.

It will be interesting to see the depths John McCain sinks to in his right-wing pandering this election season.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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