In an effective interview with CNN John McCain yesterday indicated he “gets it” on the importance of fixing the Guantanamo habeas corpus problem ( and that he understands what the Supreme Court should be doing):
Do you think this is big picture a backlash against what many people thought was their heavy-handed approach from the beginning?
MCCAIN: Well, I don’t know because I think the United States Supreme Court is supposed to act not on their views of the performance of an administration. But on the most important issues affecting, or how to implement best, the Constitution of the United States. I just am convinced that to treat enemy combatants, who are not citizens, and give them the same rights as an American citizen. Remember 30 of these people have already been released, have tried to attack America again and engaged in activities. That this is a decision that will harm our ability to detain and prosecute individuals who are enemy combatants who was to destroy America. And I agree with Chief Justice Roberts by saying that there is no precedent for this kind of action. . .
I think maybe legislation working with the Congress which would define more narrowly the Habeas Corpus rights of people who we have detained. It’s very broad right now. At least try to provide some definition of that so we’re not ending up in endless law suits. Already the detainees have brought suit on diet, on reading material, on all kinds of other things that are certainly not central to what we have detained them for. So I would hope that we could at least do that.
McCain clearly recognizes the saliency of the issue, while Democrats are trying to duck, denying there is any need to take action (which would create an obvious conflict with their left-wing supporters and general election voters concerned about their security). As for Obama: “John McCain thinks the Supreme Court was wrong; I think the Supreme Court was right.” So Obama believes, not in just giving some reasonable right of review to detainees, but allowing terrorists to stroll into federal court where they can bluff their way out of incarceration by threatening to demand, among other things, access to classified materials. Good to know where he stands.
And on Iraq:
Well, we are succeeding. We are winning. The three major cities are now under Iraqi military government control, with our support. Senator Obama incredibly refuses to acknowledge the success. It’s remarkable. Maybe he should sit down with General Petraeus which he has not sought the opportunity to do so far, or maybe even go back to Iraq, which he has not since the surge began. We are succeeding. And that success means we will be able to withdraw over time, gaged by conditions on the ground. . . And we will come home in victory and honor and not in defeat. That is what this choice is going to be about in this election. I said a year ago, over a year ago, I would rather lose a campaign than lose a war. I was right about the surge. Senator Obama was wrong about the surge. [The] American people [can] make an appropriate judgment.
I would have thought it possible a year ago, but I (like Charles Krauthammer) am coming around to the view that McCain should focus to a great degree, albeit not exclusively, on these issues as not only substantive policy issues, but as means by which voters can assess character and judgment of the two candidates. There could not be a more stark contrast.