Campaign Update - George Bush and The Law
Cumberland County Democratic Committee - Westbrook
December 18, 2005
How many of you saw Condoleeza Rice this morning on Meet the Press? Tim Russert kept asking what law gave George Bush the authority to order Justice Department surveillance on U.S. citizens without benefit of a court order or court oversight. And she kept saying "I am not a lawyer," "I'm not a lawyer," over and over again.

"I am not a lawyer." I couldn't help but think of two things. Of course, Nixon's "I am not a crook." But also, how many times have we heard, "ignorance of the law is no excuse"?

I think George Bush not only believes he is above the law. He believes he IS the law. He really believes he can authorize anything he wants. In his world, courts and judges are simply irrelevant. They should have no veto power over any of his actions.

This attitude has worked so far at Guantanamo Bay, where hundreds of people have been imprisoned for years on George Bush's say-so that they are "enemy combatants."

And the U.S. Senate, including Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, voted twice this fall to deny those "enemy combatants" access to our federal courts to challenge their detentions under the habeas corpus provisions in our U.S. Constitution. George Bush's word is good enough for those Senators, civil rights be damned.

We should have seen this coming. A few years ago, George Bush declared that the laws of the International Court of Justice would not apply to Americans. He said back then that our military and his administration could not be subject to the whims of people who might want to bring war crimes charges against the U.S. of A.

Since any charges brought in that court would not be retroactive, what did he have in mind to do that he knew would be perceived in the World Court as a war crime?

I asked that question in a column I wrote in August of 2002. The Iraq War started in March of 2003. And now, of course, we've seen charges of torture, secret CIA prisons, all kinds of things that might answer my question.

George Bush does not want to defer to any courts, at least until he has his key operatives in place. Apparently having the Supreme Court declare him the winner in 2000 was not enough. He wants a complicit federal court system all the way down the line.

So far he's been pretty successful. Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and William Pryor Jr. confirmed as federal judges, and John Roberts as Chief Justice. If the Senate confirms Judge Alito next month, that will be another pretty big feather in his cap.

I've come out against the confirmation of Judge Alito to the Supreme Court. I joined members of the Fair and Independent Courts Coalition at their stop in Bangor last Tuesday, part of their statewide "Rolling Bus Tour" alerting people to the dangers of having Judge Alito on the Supreme Court. A similar press conference is being held by five different groups tomorrow morning in Portland. I plan to be there too.

Speaking of the Iraq War, I was one of hundreds of people to sign on to a letter asking Olympia Snowe, among other things, to call a town meeting on the Iraq War, like Tom Allen in Portland did last July. Last Thursday the group who drafted that letter held a press conference in Bangor at Olympia Snowe's office.

About 75 of us crowded into the hallway of the building where Olympia Snowe has her office. I've known many of these people for years, decades even. They held a sit-in, and in the end, 19 of them in that hallway got arrested on charges of criminal trespass.

I couldn't help but think how different the energy in that hallway would have been, on the Iraq War, the Patriot Act, and so many other issues, if that had been my U.S. Senate office and my name was on that door.

I want you to think about that too.