Saturday, February 16, 2008

What will the candidates do about civil liberties?

This is another issue that I've not heard either Obama or Clinton talk about. As the previous post points out, talking about decreasing the stupendous size of our defense budget is viewed as political suicide, so there is a fairly good explanation (though not a pleasing one) for why the candidates have left it alone. But the erosion of our constitutional protections against governmental--particularly presidential--power seems to me a electoral winner. So why are civil liberties not addressed by the candidates? (Can you find them anywhere, for example, on the web pages of Clinton or Obama?)

Have the candidates ever been asked about this? What do they think about the theory of the unitary executive? Do they consider the US to be in a state of war, and hence a state of necessarily expanded presidential powers? If so, what act of Congress do they think authorized that war, and how will they know when it's over? And what about all those signing statements--do they feel the next president is given freer rein by them, or do they reject them as unconstitutional? What about the warrantless wiretapping programs and the revised FISA process? Will they continue under an Obama or a Clinton administration?

I would hate to think that Clinton and Obama are keeping mum on these issues because they would like to keep their options open if either of them reach the White House. An imperial presidency is bad for America, regardless whom is president.


Robert Ellman said...

It is a topic not being discussed nearly enough. One concern I have is how little we debate technology and civil liberties. For example, Functional Magnetic Image Resonance Scans, sometimes thought of as brain fingerprinting. What does the law say about this? How will future Supreme Court justices rule? Will they grant corporations the right to conduct FMRI scans on employees or law enforcement to conduct scans on regular citizens without probable cause? And what amounts to probable cause anyway? Will the candidates ask prospective nominees to the federal bench these sorts of questions? I definitely have no faith in McCain. I'd like to hear more from Clinton and Obama also.

Robert Ellman said...

I thought of this post last night while watching the Clinton/Obama debate. Not a single question about civil liberties, the FISA legislation, etc. I realize it's hard to cover everything and I appreciated the 16 minutes to open on health care. But couldn't Brian Williams or Tim Russert asked even one question about their views on civil liberties?