Friday, February 22, 2008

Obama and Guantanamo

" 'I can’t believe that you, as a civil rights attorney yourself, would vote to take away the writ of habeas corpus' and his unfortunate response was 'it was going to pass anyway' "

Everybody loves a winner, even lawyers representing Guantanamo prisoners. Unlike most of the pro-Obama herd, this group is not easily dismissed. They are the best the legal profession has to offer. They work without pay and try to represent people deprived of the most basic legal rights. They would not do what they do if they didn't truly believe in protecting the American constitution and international law.

Now they are tired, precisely because of the battle they have been waging. They see the hand writing on the wall for Obama. They can count delegates and they know when the media have anointed a winner. Clinton is history and anyone with common sense knows it. A group of smart, top notch lawyers can certainly see it.

On January 28 some of these attorneys signed an open letter endorsing Barack Obama.

"The Administration's attack on habeas corpus rights is dangerous and wrong. America needs a President who will not triangulate this issue. We need a President who will restore the rule of law, demonstrate our commitment to human rights, and repair our reputation in the world community. Based on our work with him, we are convinced that Senator Obama can do this because he truly feels these issues 'in his bones.' "

The slap at Hillary Clinton stands out, but the letter is also noticeable for what it does not say. It doesn't say what Obama has done to restore habeas corpus rights or how he has stood up in the Senate to fight Bush. The endorsement is full of so much wishful thinking it is pathetic.

"When others stood back, Senator Obama helped lead the fight in the Senate against the Administration's efforts in the Fall of 2006 to strip the courts of jurisdiction, and when we were walking the halls of the Capitol trying to win over enough Senators to beat back the Administration's bill, Senator Obama made his key staffers and even his offices available to help us. Senator Obama worked with us to count the votes, and he personally lobbied colleagues who worried about the political ramifications of voting to preserve habeas corpus for the men held at Guantanamo."

Sounds nice, very Obamaesque. Going through enough of the motions to look good without really doing anything. There is no mention of filibuster, the tool that any Senator can use to stop any legislation. If he wanted to, Barack Obama could recite the old and new testaments, Hamlet's soliloquy, the Gettysburg address or the complete poems of Langston Hughes and stop any bill from becoming law. He hasn't.

One Guantanamo lawyer is underwhelmed with her colleagues' support. H. Candace Gorman notes Obama's support for the Detainee Treatment Act, the first effort to strip detainees of their habeas corpus rights.

"But Obama should not be held up to what he isn’t and he should not be portrayed as some kind of hero for the gitmo detainees…by the way Obama did not even bother to show up for the ban on waterboarding a week ago…."

In addition, Hillary Clinton recently showed a little more courage than her adversary. She said that the trial of six men charged with planning the 9/11 should be taken away from the military commissions. Obama's response proved he didn't deserve the attorney's endorsement. "As a candidate to be the next commander-in-chief ... I think it's important to be careful about commenting on specific cases pending before the tribunals at Guantanamo Bay." I wonder if those lawyers would sign that letter now.

Who am I kidding? They are doing what everyone else is doing, going with the winner and hoping for the best. Thank goodness we have Gorman and a few others who have not succumbed to Obamamania.