Monday, September 15, 2008

Liberalism According to Romney.

In an attempt not to care and to protect myself from disappointment, I've mostly stayed away from reading about or commenting on the US presidential election. I cannot, however, keep myself from commenting on Mike Romney's speech at the Republican convention, which included this statement: "Is a Supreme Court liberal or conservative that awards Guantanamo terrorists with constitution rights? Its liberal" (1)

Romney's statement is remarkable and refreshingly honest.

Its not certain which Supreme Court decisions Romney is referring to, but in two important cases the Supreme Court has held against the US government in cases brought by Guantanamo Bay detainees. In Hamdan v Rumsfeld(2), the majority of the Supreme Court held that military commissions set up to try terrorist suspects must comply with the Uniform Code of Military Justice and Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. Then in June of this year, the majority of the Court held, in Boumediene v. Bush(3), that the right of habeas corpus review extended to detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

These cases concerned complex legal issues and there were dissenting opinions from Justice Scalia in each case.(4) However, whatever the merits of the legal arguments, to oppose in principle the extension of constitutional and human rights to terrorist suspects puts conservatives, in my opinion, in a very bad light.

Conservatism is of course an authoritarian ideology, but in US political culture conservatives have traditionally supported the right to habeas corpus review and the notion that democracy entails both political and legal constraints on the exercise of government. If Romney's statement is evidence of conservative thinking today, then conservatives have moved to a position attacking the very foundations of western democracy.

1) Full text here.
2) 548 U.S. 557 (2006). Full text here.
3) Judgement 12 June 2008. Full text here.
4) Scalia is quite an extremist in his thinking and it willing to hand over considerable power to the executive in security matters. If Romney only accepts as conservative opinions that arein line with Scalia, then conservatism is a really narrow and extremist political ideology.


At 15 September, 2008 15:07, Blogger karlund said...

The step from far right conservatism to facism has never been a long step!

At 16 September, 2008 12:21, Blogger Charles and Kiersten said...

I didn't get to hear Romney's speech at the convention, we were watching, but they had commentators on over him. In my opinion he has always been a little to eager to prove himself as a "conservative". During the debates he made a comment about security being our most important "right" and we cannot have any other "rights" unless we have security.

While there is a bit of truth to this, for example you cannot have other rights if you have been deprived of life, I do not agree that the need for security supersedes all other rights. New Hampshire has a state motto that I would say most Americans (who care) and definitely most conservatives live by “Live free or Die”.

What cracks me up about most Liberals, at least here in the states, is they often piously talk about how a conservative government is taking away their rights, but they are perfectly OK with letting government into every aspect of their lives. Whether it is making their health care decisions, setting the temperature of their homes (this was a piece of legislation from California that happily failed), choosing which school your child has to go to (even if it is a crappy one), taxes, energy, etc. etc. With the exception of security, it seems that liberals are all too happy to let government make every other decision for them. Then they criticize a “conservative” government for executing a power that they were specifically given, mainly the responsibility of keeping the country safe.


P.S. we've missed your thoughts about State side politics.

At 17 September, 2008 11:32, Blogger Torsten Pedersen said...

Kiersten, liberals and conservatives (at least in the US meaning of the words) have, in my opinion, different conceptions of liberty, which often clash. 

Liberals are arguably more willing to regulate on social, economic and environmental issues. Taxation as a limitation of liberty is, for example, somewhat of an alien concept to liberals. In a similar way conservatives fail to see the limitations on individual freedom that economic and social inequality entails. Conservatives have also been willing to suppress individual freedom on what is considered to be moral issues, and have historically opposed civil rights for women, workers, socialist/communists, minorities and homosexuals

Conservatives do right in speaking out for the freedoms they believe in. Some freedoms are, however, more important than others. Surely it is more important that individuals can challenge their detention in a court of law, than to have freedom to own a SUV or to choose which public school their children will attend. What worries me is the way conservatives have been willing to their abandon their commitment to the rule of law and fundamental civil liberties, such as the ancient right derived from English Common Law of habeas corpus review, for security reasons.

At 17 September, 2008 19:05, Blogger Charles and Kiersten said...

With regards to security, I would argue that historically during war, some civil liberties have been limited, no matter who is in office. I'm not saying that this is right. Even if I did agree with all of the security changes since 9-11, I would worry that since this is not a normal war, who is to say when these restrictions on our freedoms are going to end.

I'm not sure what the answer to these questions are. So many people can die in today's world, if you are not able to stop terrorists in time. I don't want the government to be able to lock up people and throw away the key. That kind of power in the hands of a few people is always dangerous, it doesn't matter if they are Liberal or Conservative. That is one of the reasons that I did not vote for Romney, he seemed a little to eager to take away all kinds of freedoms for the sake of security. But neither do I want the government to hold off moving in on a suspected terrorist because there just isn't enough evidence, and risk more people dying on a large scale.

As for Gitmo I think people should at least have the right to hear what they are charged with, and the right to appeal their case to somebody, Military Tribunals etc. I don't think that we should be able to hold people indefinitely.

As you know I'm not a huge McCain supporter, but one of the things that I really was impressed with him on in the debates, was his attitude about Gitmo, waterboarding, etc. I actually thought about voting for him just on this issue, I really don't agree with him on much else. But maybe the fact that republicans nominated him says we are not as unconcerned about civil liberties as liberals make us out to be.



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