It seems as if Rick Santorum has been anointed by someone as the official Ron Paul adversary this campaign season. This time the topic is Anwar Al-Awlaki, and our modern day Cleon has decided that American citizenship and the rule of law are essentially meaningless concepts.
First, let us consider what Paul said. According to CNN:
“If the American people accept this blindly and casually, that we now have an accepted practice of the president assassinating people who he thinks are bad guys, I think it’s sad,” Paul told reporters after a speech in Manchester Friday.
“Al-Awlaki was born here, he’s an American citizen, he was never tried or charged for any crimes,” Paul said. “To start assassinating American citizens without charges – we should think very seriously about this.”
There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of this. Al-Awlaki was an American citizen. He had never been charged with a crime in a United States court. Nothing I have read suggests to me that he lost his 5th and 6th amendment rights (not even Santorum claims this). They were ignored because it was convenient to ignore them. And this sets a very dangerous precedent for the future.
The right will routinely accuse the left in this country of viewing the Constitution incorrectly; it is not a “living document”, they often say. Santorum himself has said, “the Constitution is the owner’s manual for America.” Presumably this means that if its provisions are routinely and gleefully violated, there may eventually be problems with the product. It might even cease to function.
Of course we all know where most owner’s manuals end up: stuffed in a glove box, or in a drawer somewhere, to be occasionally and frantically pulled out when something goes wrong. It is a sort of pro forma document included for legal purposes that no one really pays attention to anyway. What Santorum says about Al-Awlaki confirms that this is how he likely does see the Constitution:
“Is anyone really surprised at this point? Ron Paul put up a commentary claiming the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were our own fault – and now, he’s condemning America for helping rid the world of a murderer,” he said. “Awlaki’s actions against the US effectively renounced his citizenship, and he could and should be treated like any other terrorist.
“This is the time to call on Congress and the President to amend the Immigration and Naturalization Act to provide for a renunciation of citizenship by action,” he said. “I believe our country and the world are better off with the likes of Awlaki dead and I for one, congratulate the men and women in uniform who helped make this world safer.”
I read disturbing comments that reflect a lack of knowledge of, or a total contempt for, the Constitution from prominent public figures from the left and the right on a daily basis. Santorum just turned up the disturbing dial to 11.
First of all, Ron Paul is not “condemning America”, but rather the actions of President Obama. I thought that’s what we were supposed to be doing until we have removed Obama from office.
Secondly, Santorum admits that the very thing he says happened – that Al-Awlaki “effectively renounced his citizenship” – certainly did not happen legally, for he goes on to demand that Obama and the Congress amend the Immigration and Naturalization Act to allow for it. Al-Awlaki did not meet these conditions for loss of US citizenship, not even the final bullet point, since none of it had ever been proven in a court of law.
Third, Santorum would eventually have people stripped of their US citizenship on the basis of “action”, and if the Al-Awlaki case is his example, this means without a trial, and at the arbitrary discretion of the government. So we end up with practically the same result; people deprived of life without due process.
Is the world “better off” without Al-Awlaki? Maybe, though I’d still like to know why he dined at the Pentagon not long after the 9/11 attacks. But what is certain is that the world is much worse off when America’s founding principles are treated in the same way most of us treat our “owner’s manuals.” If America does not respect due process and the rule of law, then will the rest of the world?
If we don’t believe in these concepts anymore, we ought to say so. But it is hypocritical to beat the drum about morality when it comes to abortion or other sexual matters, and ignore it when it comes to illegal assassinations. Do US citizens have a right to certain things before the state can legally and morally take their lives, or don’t they?
Let me blow the dust off of that owner’s manual for you, Rick:
“No person… shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” — The 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution