Obama on the Need for Habeas Corpus: Distinguishing Between ‘Barack, the Bomb-Thrower’ and ‘Barack, the Guy Running for President’

Sep 8, 2008 7:30pm

FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. — A fired-up Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., took on his opponents — "these people," he said incredulously, in a familiar refrain — for shamelessness and dishonesty.

"I have said repeatedly that there should be no contradiction between keeping America safe and secure and respecting our Constitution," Obama said. "During the Republican convention, you remember during the Republican convention, one of them, I don’t know if it was Rudy or Palin … they said, ‘Well, ya know, Sen. Obama is less interested in protecting you from terrorists than … reading them their rights.’"

(It was Palin, who said "Al Qaeda terrorists still plot to inflict catastrophic harm on America — he’s worried that someone won’t read them their rights?")

"Now, let me say this," Obama continued, "first of all, you don’t even get to read them their rights until you catch them. So, I don’t know what, they should spend more time trying to catch Osama bin Laden and we can worry about the next steps later. Hah!  I mean, seriously! These folks.

"Catch ‘em first!"

Obama said his position on this "has always been clear.  It has always been clear. If you’ve got a terrorist, take ‘em out. Take ‘em out. Anybody who was involved in 9/11 –- take ‘em out."

But, the former constitutional law professor argued, "What I have also said is this: that when you suspend habeas corpus — which has been a principle, dating before even our country, it’s the foundation of Anglo-American law — which says, very simply, if the government grabs you, then you have the right to at least ask, ‘Why was I grabbed?’ and say, ‘Maybe you’ve got the wrong person.’

"The reason you have that safeguard," he said, "is because we don’t always have the right person. We don’t always catch the right person. We may think this is Mohammed the terrorist, it might be Mohammed the cab driver. You may think it’s Barack the bomb thrower, but it might be Barack the guy running for president.

"The reason that you have this principle is not to be soft on terrorism, it’s because that’s who we are," Obama said as the crowd rose to its feet, applauding. "That’s what we’re protecting. Don’t mock the Constitution! Don’t make fun of it! Don’t suggest that it’s un-American to abide by what the founding fathers set up! It’s worked pretty well for over 200 years!

"These people!" Obama said.

Obama also mocked the new TV ad put out by the McCain campaign claiming that Gov. Sarah Palin "stopped the Bridge to Nowhere."

"I gotta admit these folks are shameless," Obama said, "because the record is indisputable," he said, describing how Palin had originally supported the project.

"I wouldn’t do that," Obama said. "I mean, I’m not perfect –"

"Yes, you are!" shouted a woman in the crowd.

"No, no, no, no," Obama said. "Talk to Michelle, she’ll tell you. But what I’m not going to do, I’m not going to describe in an ad that I did something that is opposite of what I did."

– Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller

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