Monday, January 22, 2007

The Brady Bunch Vision of the Constitution

Last week Alberto Gonzales appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee and announced that "the Constitution doesn't say that every individual in the United States or every citizen has or is assured the right of Habeas Corpus. It doesn't say that. It simply says that the right of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended." You can watch his comments over at crooks and liars.

The long and the short of Gonzales' argument is the Constitution says Congress can't suspend Habeas Corpus, it doesn't say the Congress can't permanently deny Habeas Corpus to some group it doesn't like. According to the A.G. none of us have any "constitutional right" to Habeas Corpus.

A bunch of us wasted a lot of time over the weekend arguing the merits of the claim. I could cite an opinion written by Justice Stevens (INS V. ST. CYR, 533 U.S. 289 (2001)) suggesting the A.G.'s argument is not particularly persuasive. I could also cite Justice Scalia's dissent in that same case giving Gonzales significant "strict constructionist" cover. There are a host of other citations floating around the web.

Tonight I watched Steven Colbert's Word segment. I would provide a link, but it isn't up on the Comedy Central site yet. Either watch the 1/22/07 episode of Colbert when it is aired or watch for it on the Comedy Central site. Colbert's analysis of Gonzales' argument is brilliant. Instead of a series of dusty Supreme Court cases, and obscure references to Sir William Blackstone's Commentaries or to the Magna Carta, he brings us the profound argument of Greg Brady from an episode of the Brady Bunch and a reference to a well known "hummer." Gonzales' argument sort of reminds us all of that other univerally known "legal" argument: "it all depends on what the definition of "is" is."

UPDATE 1/23/07: Here is the link to Colbert.