Friday, December 18, 2009

An Aside: "Terrorists in Illinois! How Did They E-vah Get In He-ah?"

The State of Illinois is bracing for the arrival of Guantanamo terrorists in Thomson. Commentators on Chicago's AM radio stations are constantly citing members of Congress (usually members of the House of Representatives) who argue that we cannot detain Guantanamo prisoners in Thomson because to do so would be "unconstitutional." As the logic goes, the Constitutional right of habeas corpus applies to prisoners in the United States. They have the right to know why they are being detained, what they are to be charged with, and all of that within a reasonable amount of time. But many Guantanamo prisoners have been held for extended periods of time without being charged. It is also reported that government officials have indicated that this particular circumstance will not change once the prisoners are housed in Thomson.

Of course, the nightmare scenario follows: the gay-welfare-cheat-wife-swapping-atheist-liberals at the A.C.L.U. bring federal suits and terrorists are tossed freely into the corn fields of the Midwest. But, if the imagination is on order, PardonPower has a different angle. We wonder if a once famous recipient of clemency might not step back on the stage. His name? Lambdin P. Milligan.

First, here is our scenario: Federal suits may or may not appear. And they may or may not make it to the Supreme Court before President Obama has left office. But, even if a case arises, and makes its way to the Supreme Court, and the Court tells President Obama he cannot house terrorists in the Thomson prison ... and those are a lot of "ifs" ... then Obama could simply follow in the footsteps of another war-time president from the State of Illinois, Abraham Lincoln.

The Supreme Court objected to the fact that Lincoln suspended habeas corpus not just once, but twice. When Lincoln was alive (Ex Parte Merryman), he simply ignored the Court. When he was dead (Ex Parte Milligan), he had considerably less interest in the matter. The Milligan case, incidentally, emerged from the State of Illinois.

Ignore the Supreme Court? What? How well would that have worked for Richard Nixon? Well, not very. But it worked pretty well for Andrew Jackson and probably would have worked well for Thomas Jefferson. And, besides, Obama is no Richard Nixon! And Obama's party controls Congress! And, more importantly, in this instance, Obama could position himself against the Court but between terrorists and the American people! He could show up in prime time, respectfully beat the Republican-stacked Court over the head with a little "take care that the laws be faithfully executed" and walk away looking all Clint Eastwood / Rambo. Meanwhile, his critics look like Anti-American, terrorist loving, apple pie hating Neo-Nazis.

Now, having stretched the imagination that far, is it not much, much easier to imagine the Republican-stacked Supreme Court stumbling all over itself to simply defer to the knowledge and expertise of the executive in this unprecedented situation? Hey, we're just sayin' ...

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