April 06, 2020

Taking issue with BDN senatorial endorsement

The Bangor Daily News has endorsed Olympia Snowe because of her supposed willingness to take “principled stances” at odds with her party, and because of her “ability to develop bipartisan compromises on important issues.” (BDN, Oct. 23)

Unfortunately, the facts do not support the conclusions in this endorsement.

It is not principled to, as a member of the Gang of 14, end a deadlock over anti-choice judicial nominees, and then vote to confirm two of those three anti-choice judges.

It was not an acceptable compromise in 2002 to reduce proposed tax cuts, but still grant the richest 1 percent of Americans huge, budget-busting windfalls.

It is not principled to vote for Medicare Part D, which forbids negotiations on drug prices, and then profess to work across the aisle for lower prescription drug costs.

It is not principled to profess to be pro-choice, but vote to confirm Judge Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court.

Snowe, a member of the majority party with 28 years of seniority, could not convince her Senate peers to provide home heating assistance until March this year, forcing Gov. Baldacci to use $5 million of state funds to keep low-income Mainers warm last winter.

And, according to Congressional Quarterly, Sen. Snowe DID vote with the Bush agenda 82 percent of the time in his first term in office.

But most disconcerting in this endorsement is the BDN’s dismissal as just “troubling concessions” Snowe’s willingness “to suspend habeas corpus rights for some detainees in the war on terrorism and to allow the president to define acceptable treatment.”

Those “concessions” are not minor issues. They speak to the very fabric

of our nation.

Habeas corpus is a basic right in our Constitution, a concept that goes back to the Magna Carta. And “acceptable treatment” is another word for torture.

So the BDN has endorsed someone who says it is OK for the U.S. government to throw detainees into prison without access to our courts, and for George W. Bush to define what constitutes torture in the treatment of those detainees.

In another “troubling concession,” Snowe wrote the bill to pardon the President for his warrant-less wiretapping of American citizens, despite the Supreme Court declaring those actions illegal and unconstitutional.

At a debate last week at Colby College, Snowe defended her support of the Military Commissions Act just signed into law, stating, accurately, prisoners of war have never had habeas corpus rights other than before a military tribunal. But then she added: “So why would we accord them [detainees] greater rights than we give to prisoners of war?”

The answer, of course, is that a “prisoner of war” has a legal status under the Geneva Conventions. Under this new legislation, “detainees,” or “enemy combatants,” can be any person, anywhere in the world, including Americans, whom the President or his agents so designate. They can be picked up off the streets, thrown into one of those CIA secret prisons, with no recourse to challenge their situation before an impartial judge, or to invoke the Geneva Conventions.

This is much more serious than ordinary people finding themselves on a no-fly list at the airport, not knowing how they got there, who put them there, or how to get off – and missing their flight. Under the Military Commissions Bill, this is about any person, anywhere, being whisked away, never to be heard from again.

People are telling me they are now more afraid of their own government than they are of any terrorists.

Interestingly, within days of the passage of the Military Commissions Bill on Sept. 28, we saw both the White House and Senate Republicans, including Snowe, propose a shift in the direction in Iraq. I was not surprised.

Last spring, on the third anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, I spoke at a rally in Monument Square in Portland. Here’s what I said back then:

“I issue a caution here. Even if our efforts are successful, and we manage somehow to turn the political tide and actually pull out of Iraq, we cannot let down our guard. We cannot presume that a president who claims his extensive new powers derived from being a ‘war president’ – to spy on Americans and imprison people at will – we cannot expect that president to easily relinquish that vaulted authority.”

We are living in very serious times. We are in a constitutional crisis, a situation which must be immediately challenged.

I have vowed, in January, as Maine’s new U.S. senator, to submit a bill to rescind the Military Commissions Act.

Please take this election as seriously as it deserves to be taken. And please help me turn this country around, by sending me to the U.S. Senate on Nov. 7.

Jean Hay Bright, of Dixmont, is the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate. Her Web page is www.jeanhaybright.us.

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