Wednesday, June 27, 2007

THE OPINIONATOR

June 27, 2007, 4:36 pm
A Win in the War on the War on Drugs
By Chris Suellentrop
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Finding a silver lining in the cloud created by “Bong Hits 4 Jesus”: Writing on The Agitator, his personal blog, Reason senior editor Radley Balko makes the case that Morse v. Frederick “was actually a victory for drug reform advocates, not a setback.”

First of all, the Supreme Court’s decision won’t affect political advocacy in the public schools, Balko suggests. He writes:

Yes, all nine justices would have exempted the principal of the school from damages. And maybe I’ll have to give up my libertarian library card, here. But I find it difficult to get too upset about that. The kid flat-out admitted he wasn’t making a political statement. Rather, he held up the banner in an effort to do something outlandish that might get him on television. In other words, he was being disruptive. And he was punished for it.

More important, Balko says, “at least five and probably six justices” indicated they would oppose a school district that did try to “ban advocacy of reforming the drug laws.” He notes: “Justice Stevens (joined by Ginsburg and Souter) in fact wrote a pretty amazing opinion, one that could have been written by any activist for reforming the drug laws. He even recognized the similarities between drug and alcohol prohibition…”

“I think this is heartening language to hear from three Supreme Court justices,” Balko writes. “And I would guess that Breyer generally agrees with the sentiment, as well.” In addition, Justices Alito and Kennedy concurred, indicating that they “would not uphold a public school’s decision to censor student speech related to the drug war that was political in nature.”

Balko then does the math and concludes, “Five justices have expressly announced that public school censorship of political speech related to the war on drugs won’t stand. And it’s likely that a sixth (Breyer) would join them.”


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June 27, 2007, 9:20 am
Forging a Deal on Guantanamo
By Chris Suellentrop
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The Washington Post editorial page sees the potential for a grand bargain between President Bush and the Democratic Congress on the closure of Guantanamo Bay:


Despite last year’s failure, Mr. Bush still has the opportunity to strike a deal with Congress. He can and should offer a lot: the closure of Guantanamo and major improvements in the commissions and tribunals. In particular, those suspects to be held without trial as unlawful enemy combatants should be given far more due process. They should have lawyers and be allowed to call witnesses and challenge evidence. Their cases should be considered by full-fledged judges whose decisions can be appealed, and reviews should occur more frequently. This is far from impractical: Israel and, until recently, Britain have successfully used similar administrative systems to hold suspected terrorists.


In exchange, Mr. Bush can seek Congress’s authorization to hold a limited number of foreigners in the United States without charge and to try some suspects — such as the top leaders of al-Qaeda — under rules that would depart from those of conventional courts-martial and criminal trials. He could create a legal system for the war on terrorism that could serve future presidents. If he fails to act, he will be remembered as the president who created the terrible mistake that is Guantanamo — and who missed his chance to fix it.


Another vote for defunding the veep: “Beyond an opportunity to settle some scores with a secretive Washington operator, a legislative fight over Cheney’s budget would also mean a chance to discuss a 30-year history of extralegal expansion of that office’s powers,” Michael Currie Schaffer writes in The New Republic Online. Schaffer later adds:


Ironically, the rise of the imperial vice presidency coincides with the assault,so lamented by Cheney, on the imperial presidency. In 1974, as Richard Nixon was being driven from office, the veep got his own official mansion. Three years later, informal Jimmy Carter gave Walter Mondale a formal office in the White House. Of course, everything he did there was at the sufferance of the president: Carter, Reagan, or Clinton could all have cut their vice presidents out of the loop for any reason, or no reason at all. But the country slowly got used to the idea of an engaged, quasi-executive vice president who served on the basis of his elected power and not just on the basis of his relationship with the president. Not even Dan Quayle could undo the precedent. Thirty years down the road, that office not only remains in the White House, but its visitors’ log is off limits to the general public.

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