Friday, November 9, 2007

Litmus Test

HipHopLawyer (being, among other things, a lawyer) is a big supporter and understander of nuance. I've been known to use this space to damn simplistic positions because they lack the nuance required of a particular situation.

For example, when someone speaks of whether we are "winning" in Iraq, I've been known to point out that "winning" is a meaningless concept in a war in connection with which there is not any coherent objective, no identifiable enemy, etc. And then of course, these people are here held up to ridicule as either being too stupid (i.e., incapable of understanding the nuance) or cynical liars (capable of understanding it, but choosing to ignore it for purposes of partisan hackery as a means of convincing stupid people to support their positions).

That all being said, there are some matters which really are very simple, with respect to which all nuanced considerations may easily be discarded. These are basic, fundamental, non-complicated issues. For example, the practice wherein a government arrests a citizen, without a warrant, and holds that citizen indefinitely, in secret, without charge and without access to the courts or to legal counsel.

Which brings us to the upcoming presidential election. A lot has been said, and a lot more will be said, about the candidates and their positions on various issues. It is my firm belief that almost all of this is a worthless crock of shit. I refuse to pay it anything other than the most cursory kind of attention.

Because no one is asking about or talking about the things I consider most important. There's a lot of talk about health care, taxes, Iraq, Iran, immigration, and, of course, the Most Important Issue Evah: Abortion.

Any one of these things probably is "important" in that it affects the lives of ordinary Americans in a significant way. Fine. But what can (or will) a president do about any of them? For a variety of reasons, it is very rare that the policies supported by a candidate ever become the policies actually implemented by that candidate-as-president.

On the other hand, certain positions on certain issues can give great insight into how a candidate would govern, and react to unpredicted situations.

For this reason, I propose that we may narrow the field of candidates considerably by automatically and immediately eliminating any candidate who cannot answer "No" to the following question:
Do you believe it would ever be justified, under any circumstances, to arrest a citizen, without a warrant, and hold that citizen indefinitely, in secret, without charge and without access to the courts or to legal counsel?
Any answer other than "no" or "absolutely not" results in immediate disqualification. Answers that begin with "well, in most circumstances..." or "I think that normally..." or "I would need to..." result in immediate disqualification.

I think that there are probably three candidates who would answer this question properly. Unfortunately, none of them has more than the smallest, most unlikely chance to be elected.

Because we, the electorate, are more concerned with their views on government health care. Or how many more years we'll keep troops in Iraq. Or, of course, abortion.

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