Friday, June 30, 2006

SCOTUS showdown at the GW corral

A 5-3 SCOTUS decision rebuked the Bush WH for putting Gitmo detainees before military tribunals by stating in a voluminous decision that the commissions were unauthorized by federal statute and violated international law. Scalia, Thomas, and Alito dissented. Chief Justice Roberts did not vote since he participated in the federal appeals court that rejected Hamdan's challenge. The nut of the SCOTUS decision:

A principal flaw the court found in the commissions was that the president had established them without Congressional authorization.
Ooo-eee-ooo-eee-ooo. Baa-da-da.

First, the good:
For five years, President Bush waged war as he saw fit. If intelligence officers needed to eavesdrop on overseas telephone calls without warrants, he authorized it. If the military wanted to hold terrorism suspects without trial, he let it.
Now the Supreme Court has struck at the core of his presidency and dismissed the notion that the president alone can determine how to defend the country. In rejecting Bush's military tribunals for terrorism suspects, the high court ruled that even a wartime commander in chief must govern within constitutional confines significantly tighter than this president has believed appropriate.
More good:
...if I wanted to keep Hamdan in custody indefinitely, I'd have to give my reasons in some kind of authentic legal proceeding. The Supreme Court tried to make that clear in 2004 when it rejected the Decider's claims that in wartime he could basically hold whomever he wanted for as long as he wanted, without having to deal with complications such as due process and legal representation....
...Perhaps the greatest impact of the 185-page ruling is that it rejects Bush's claim that the necessity of waging the "global war on terror" gives him extraordinary powers that lie beyond the jurisdiction of the courts. The ruling reminds him of "the court's duty, in both peace and war, to preserve the constitutional safeguards of civil liberty."
And especially good from Christy at FDL:
The article provides a pretty good snapshot on why the GOP rolled out Kate O’Beirne on Hardball yesterday to start spewing talking points about the SCOTUS and the Democrats wanting to unleash terrorists on the world — it’s because no one is buying it any longer, and because the SCOTUS had the balls to call Bushie’s bluff that the WH is now in panic pushback mode.  The Administration is, of course, taking the "hands off" approach to testing the criticism waters, putting the President out to make innocuous statements about respecting the Court, all the while GOP surrogates hit the airwaves vilifying Justice Stevens’ opinion and anyone who would dare step out and criticize the President’s policies.
But the SCOTUS has pulled the curtain back with this opinion, and has shown the shoddy legal reasoning of the Administration for what it is — a hollow prop used to justify egregious power grabs and actions in the name of this nation that no one outside a time of immediate, desperate fear and threat would ever condone.  And once that curtain is pulled back…well, you can’t make the snake oil salesman look like the Great and Powerful Oz any longer, can you?
I dunno. I don't feel optimistic about the upcoming congressional sing-along with Bush. Why?

Here's the bad:
To some degree, the court may have helped Mr. Bush out of a political predicament. He has repeatedly said he would like to close the detention center at Guantánamo, a recognition that the indefinite imprisonment of suspects without trial and the accusations that they have been mistreated were seriously undercutting American credibility abroad. But he set no schedule and said he was waiting for the court to rule.
"The court really rescued the administration by taking it out of this quagmire it's been in," said Michael Greenberger, who teaches the law of counterterrorism at the University of Maryland law school.
Now Congress, with the court's encouragement, may help the president find a way forward. For Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who said a legislative proposal on military commissions he sent to the White House 18 months ago "went nowhere," the ruling was a welcome restoration of the balance of power.
"The Supreme Court has set the rules of the road," Mr. Graham, a former military lawyer, said, "and the Congress and the president can drive to the destination together."
I suspect the preznit's henchmen have their Rubber Stamp Republicans inked up ready to bless God knows what in Congress that will allow the Codpiece to continue his reign of terror on civil liberties as the unitary executive. The dissenting opinions here, here, and here give the Rubber Stamps a road map for writing revised legislation that could stand another judicial challenge. It ain't over yet. But, more importantly, will Democrats have the spine to shut down the printing press ready to roll out what the Bushinistas want?

Saving the worst for last, the ugly:
CAVUTO: Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers wasting no time using today's Supreme Court decision to gain some political points. They were lining up like jets on a runway, declaring this is proof that the president is bungling the war on terror. Reaction now from Ann Coulter...
COULTER: ...I mean, the culture of treason right now, it just -- it has become so pervasive that you just expect Democrats to side with Al Qaeda....
...I mean, this is an appeal, a habeas corpus appeal, from a member of Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden's driver complaining about the procedures of his court martial or military tribunal. And....instantly the Democratic senators are siding with the Al Qaeda petitioner.
I find Cavuto's following shimmy over to Coulter so representative of the dance of the con-apparatchiki:
CAVUTO: OK. Let me ask you about that, Ann. Let's say it was as big a deal as you have claimed it is. And other Republican senators, by the way, were echoing your exact point today, as was the president.
No kidding, there was a chorus? Ha! Without hesitation the queen of sludge flung more caca at Democrats. Does the newest Stepford wives software update facilitate quicker downloads? Sheesh. Cavuto played the good cop to Coulter's very, very bad cop. Wingnut news theatrics. Entertaining but. Oh, so obvious.

I betcha the con-apparatchiki and the incoming 101st Keyboard Kamikazes will work overtime to heat up public opinion into a lathered sweat, to make it as hard as possible for Democrats to oppose a rancid piece of legislation that the Rubber Stamps will cook up, and to extol the virtues of Republican tough war on terror 'nads on schedule as we roll toward the midterms. The Beltway mamba kings will maneuver and spin to downplay the impact of the Supreme Court's decision and smear Democrats while the wingnut Congress will get busy making the preznit look like the Marlboro man.

Keep your eyes peeled for continued examination of the SCOTUS decision at FDL. I just checked Christy again who has issued a battle cry... "every member of Congress should hear that from all of us." She's right. Read it.

UPDATE: Duh! Christy suggested SCOTUSblog for legal analysis on Hamdan. Good point.

TYPO ALERT: I meant to say Beltway mambo kings but heh... Freudian slip. The mamba is an extremely poisonous snake. Hmmm, that could work since I'm referring to Bushinista strategists and press. Sometimes I correct typos without an uodate but this one seemed too funny to just fix. Ha! On me.