15 September 2008

Two Thirds Disagree with John McCain on Presidential Powers

In a poll released today by AP in conjunction with the National Constitution Center, we find the results of a poll of 1000 adults in the US. I want to concentrate on only one question and its responses:

Only 29% of those polled favor, either strongly or even somewhat, giving the president more power at the expense of the power of Congress or the courts. A full 67% oppose that idea, with 50% opposing it strongly.

That is a very interesting result in light of John McCain's recent actions regarding the powers of the president. In September of 2006, the Senate passed the Military Commissions Act. Prior to passage, McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Warner staged a bit of political theater, pretending to want to remove all possibility for detainees at Guantanamo and elsewhere in US custody to be tortured. In the end, however, they capitulated entirely to George W. Bush, and did so in a way to undermine just those Constitutional protections that the people in the poll above want protected.

Here is how the New York Times described what happened:

The bill would set up rules for the military commissions that will allow the government to proceed with the prosecutions of high-level detainees including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, considered the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

It would make illegal several broadly defined abuses of detainees, while leaving it to the president to establish specific permissible interrogation techniques. And it would strip detainees of a habeas corpus right to challenge their detentions in court.

So, after pretending to be upholding a righteous stand against torture, McCain, as the leader of this stand, then brokered a "compromise" which would leave it "to the president to establish specific permissible interrogation techniques."

The New York Times, in the same article, noted reaction to the bill:
Human rights groups called the vote to approve the bill “dangerous” and “disappointing.” Critics feared that it left the president a large loophole by allowing him to set specific interrogation techniques.
It is hard to imagine how out of touch with the thinking of US citizens John McCain is when it comes to presidential power and torture. A full two thirds of Americans disagree with his views and only 15% strongly favor them.

For the record, it should be pointed out that while John McCain voted in favor of the Military Commissions Act, Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton all voted against it.

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