Saturday, May 15, 2010

Miranda Redux

Matt Taibbi points out the blindingly obvious. Among those screaming the loudest to take away the Miranda warning for terrorist suspects are our kooky friends attending the various tea parties around the country. Remember these are the worthies who are shocked and appalled at the growth of government power. And, by God, they want it curtailed! The other day I lamented yet another cave-in by the Obama administration. (Has anybody noticed that Obama and his administration aren't really all that crazy about civil liberties? About as crazy about them as the Bush guys were . . . and you know how crazy that was.) Anyway, before I get off the track and start fussing about that again, another thing I wanted you notice was what Taibbi had to say. To wit: that all these zealots hollering about the dangerous expansion of government power are seemingly oblivious to the huge expansion of government power and control by diminishment of our individual rights guaranteed by the Miranda ruling against the agencies of the government most likely to violate those liberties: the police and other law enforcement agencies.

Actually, Taibbi is right on when he observes that this curtailment-of-Miranda business is no good for anybody, right or left. Since my paraphrase could never achieve the power (not to mention color) of the original, I'll let Taibbi say it himself:

For the Democrats, it will surely end up being one of the darker moments of the Obama presidency — not because it’s necessarily so terribly meaningful (at least compared to ending Too-Big-to-Fail), but because it represents a new low on the utter-lack-of-balls front. The only reason we’re even talking about this Miranda issue is because a bunch of morons on talk radio made a big fuss about it, and if our president is going to go sticking his thumbs into the constitution every time he can’t take a few days of getting reamed by a bunch of overpaid media shills whose job it is to hate him no matter what he does, then we’re all in a lot of trouble.
For the conservatives/Tea Partiers/Republicans (note that I have to make separate notations for each, since they’re not all necessarily the same people anymore), this Miranda furor is yet another one of those humorously contradictory political campaigns  of the “Keep the Guv’mint off my Medicare” variety that they’re becoming known for. I’m beginning to think that if the Tea Party had a symbol, it shouldn’t be the snake from that “Don’t Tread on Me” flag, it should be a drooling yutz sticking a pencil in his own ear.
The reason for that is that the Tea Party angle on this Miranda business is that they want to strip terrorist suspects of liberal/civil rights-era protections, and they think that foregoing their Miranda rights is a good way to get there. What they don’t get is that the inevitable consequence in this sort of meddling in constitutional theory is that we’re going to carve out exceptions to constitutional applicability for certain classes of people. We’re obviously not going to repeal the 5th amendment granting protection to American citizens against self-incrimination; and if we’re not going to tinker with that basic right we all enjoy, then the only other way around it is to start tinkering with the concept of who’s a citizen and who isn’t.
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