The Supreme Court today ruled in a 5-4 decision, with Chief Justice Roberts writing a minority dissenting opinion, that the detainees of the United States at Guantanamo Bay have access to the protections of the writ of habeas corpus. They thus have the right to question their detention in the Federal Court system.
I just watched McCain’s reaction to the news, which was that he had not had a chance to read the decision first, but that he particularly wanted to read the “decision” written by Roberts.
This is the sort of mistake that is made by rookie politicians, who almost unanimously, unless they are attorneys, believe that the dissenting opinions in Supreme Court cases are somehow important. On the contrary, dissenting opinions not only have no force of law, they are frequently the repository of inflammatory rhetoric aimed at denigrating the opinions of those in the majority. Judges and justices who pen those dissents know, as do the attorneys who read them, that they are the place for venting anger towards those who differ with them.
Senator McCain would do well to read the majority opinion, since that’s the one that sets forth the law of the land. To imply that his views or policies might depend more upon the minority opinion than upon the law of the land is to allow us to infer that he is not fit to govern. It is this callous disregard for the rule of law that has turned this country on its ear in the past seven years.
We can do better. We must do better. Or we are doomed.