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May 26, 2009 - Image 5

Resource type:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2009-05-26

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009
The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com Se5

Judging Jenny


The Obama administration's
search for the next Supreme
Court Justice is under way.
Justice David
Souter's retire- ,
ment announce-
ment earlier g
this month has
opened up a seat
on the bench.
The Associated -
Press seems con- CHRIS
vinced that a face KOSLOWSI
familiar to most
Michiganders -
Governor Jennifer Granholm - is
on the President's short listcofonomi-
nees. It's easy to see why. Granhom
is young, recognizable, female and
reliably liberal. But despite her
appeal to President Barack Obama,
Granholm's nomination would set
a devastating standard that could
threaten the federal government's
system of checks and balances.
Let's get one undeniable fact out
of the way first. Despite Obama's
repeated campaign promises to
govern moderately, he's already
taken huge steps to expand the
government's influence with little
regard for his opposition's opinion.
Assuming the likely scenario that
Norm Coleman loses his appeal of
Al Franken's victory in last Novem-
ber's disputed Minnesota Senate
race, the Democrats will control 60
Senate seats. This supermajority
will block any Republican filibus-
ter against Obama's nominee. This
is Obama's golden opportunity to
nominate a justice that will fill the
shoes of the consistently liberal
Souter with little opposition.
One might think an absolute-
ly necessary requirement for a
Supreme Court justice would be
experience as a judge. Granholm
has none. She was elected Michi-
gan's attorney general in 1998 and
governor in 2002. In fact, her quali-
fications are frightfully similar to
one of Obama's admitted heroes -
Earl Warren. The Supreme Court
chief justice - who was also a for-
mer attorney general and governor
at the time of his nomination - pre-
sided over rulings that extended the
court's influence. Granted, Warren
Court rulings like Brown v. Board
of Education instigated needed
change in American law, but the
precedent set by Warren pushed the
once traditional court into a battle
between the philosophies of judicial
activism and judicial restraint that
still rages.
But there is a major difference
between Warren and Granholm.
During his political career, War-
ren earned universal support from

across the party spectrum. In the
1946 California gubernatorial elec-
tion, Warren won the Republican,
Democratic and Progressive Party
primaries. Granholm, on the other
hand, has participated in three divi-
sive elections in which her political
biases were on full display. If nomi-
nated, Granholm could be the most
politically charged justice in over50
years, and the first inthis new era of
power for the Supreme Court.
A nomination of such a political
figure would cause more damage
than any other nominee on Obama's
short list. For example, Diane Wood,
a U.S. Court of Appeals judge from
Chicago. leans to the left and is a
favorite to receive Obama's nomi-
nation. Her rulings might be just as
liberal as Granholm's would be, but
at least her appointment wouldn't
jeopardize the Court's credibility.
Gov. Granholm
is too partisan
to be a justice.
The appointment of career poli-
ticians like Granholm to the Court
would undermine its separation
from the executive and legislative
branches. There is a reason why
justices are traditionally non-polit-
ical figures and are given lifetime
terms. The Supreme Court is sup-
posed to transcend politics in order
to correctly apply our laws without
bias. The nomination of a blatantly
political justice would only increase
these problems and is the last thing
the court needs, especially when
the court wields so much power and
is more politicized than ever.
Despite the ease with which her
confirmation could pass the Senate,
Granholm would be one of the least
qualified and most politicized jus-
tices in the last 100 years. Residing in
a judicial body which is supposed to
ased way, Granholm would be exact-
lythe kind ofvoicethattheFounding
Fathers were trying to keep out of
the nation's highest court.
There's hope that Obama is smart*
enough to realize he doesn't need
to corrupt the Supreme Court with
party politics in order to nominate
a justice that will reliably walk the
liberal line. But with a potential
nominee as politically attractive as
Granholm, I'm hesitant to believe
he'll be able resist her appeal.
-Chris Koslowski can be
reached at cskoslow(a umich.edu.

qat Wi~i
AWNSC (jsriS .
De - - e t e
ZSwiSt t
90 4
k7(/ ~ J~

T he idea of "campaign
promises" is self-explan-
atory. Once elected to
office, candi-
dates are sup-
posed to follow
through on the
pledges they
made while
on the cam-
paign trail. But
by bungling ED
the closing of MCPHEE
Bay prison and
failing to scrap the Military Com-
missions Act, President Barack
Obama is not fulfilling those
His campaign promise was that
he would reject the Military Com-
missions Act - the legislation
that has made prisons like Gitmo
a threat to constitutional rights.
He instead revised its interpreta-
tion, while still allowing confes-
sions coerced through torture as
legal evidence in court and sus-
pending habeas corpus rights -
allowing enemy combatants now
classified as "prisoners of war" to
be detained indefinitely without
charges filed against them.
Though the United States
Supreme Court ruled that the
enemy combatants held at Gitmo
have a right to challenge their
imprisonment in 2008, Obama
said in a speech at the National
Archives on Thursday that "if and
when we determine that the Unit-
ed States must hold individuals to
keep them from carrying out an
act of war, we will do so within
a system that involves judicial
and congressional oversight."
Through this statement, Obama
admitted that if his administra-
tion decides that any of those held
at Gitmo could carry out an act of
war, he will be held indefinitely
with judicial and congressional

oversight, not permission.
Closing Gitmo without end-
ing actions like these is an empty
victory for freedom. Obama is
trying to play America for a fool.
He's panderingto those who were
vehemently opposed to President
George Bush's civil right viola-
tions without actually changing
the policy. The point of closing
Gitmo was to put an end to the
Military Commissions Act. The
end of Gitmo was supposed to be a
victory for freedom-lovers every-
where, but every minute the Mili-
tary Commissions Act endures, it
becomes more of a defeat. Obama.
campaigned under messages of
hope and change, yet he's con-
tinuing the behavior that made so
many citizens angry about losing
their constitutional rights.
Unfortunately, politicians
are ignoring this facet of closing
Gitmo. As it stands right now,
the biggest political outcry is
Obama's lack of a plan for the cur-
rent detainees. Their concern is
that closing the facility is a dan-
gerous but necessary solution to
the U.S.'s detainee problems.
But closing the facility is nei-
ther dangerous nor a solution
to these problems. Transferring
the detainees to other prisons
doesn't stop the constitutional
rights abuse, it merely continues
the government's denial that it is
acting unethically. And moving
detainees to new prisons, possi-
bly inside the U.S., doesn't make
the nation any less safe. As long
as detainees aren't released, they
don't pose a great risk to the pub-
lic. As Obama himself pointed out
in his speech Thursday, "Nobody
has ever escaped from one of our
'supermax' prisons, which hold
hundreds of convicted terrorists."
With this ongoing debate, poli-
ticians - and the general public
- continue to be distracted from

the fact that Obama continues to
hold suspected terrorists with-
out charging them with an actual
crime. What is at great risk here
is the continued abuse of con-
stitutional rights. Habeas cor-
pus rights are guaranteed by the
United States constitution for a
reason. Their denial is unethical,
inhumane and in direct contra-
diction to the rule of law that we
value in the U.S.
Habeas corpus
shouldn't only
be for citizens.
It's funny that in Obama's
speech he stood adjacent to the
Constitution. He called it "the
foundation of liberty and justice
in this country, and a light that
shines for all who seek freedom,
fairness, equality and dignity in
the world." That's ironic, consid-
ering the Military Commissions
Act has angered several European
nations, and many liberty-based
activistgroups such as the Ameri-
can Civil Liberties Union.
I'm not naive enough to think
that all of the detainees at Gitmo
are innocent just because they
haven't been charged. This is a
dangerous time, but that's what
makes it more important than
ever to protect basic constitutioi-
al rights. Obama needs to either
end this mess or stop masquerad-
ing as a protector of the American
people. When Gitmo closes, he
should end the Military Commis-
sions Act. Doing so could restore
the nation's faith in him as an
actual change from Bush.
-Ed McPhee can be reached
at emcphee@umich.edu.

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