Say It Aint So, Mr. President. Say it Aint So.

Posted on May 9, 2010 by Joseph


I am disappointed and disgusted that our former constitutional law professor President would seek overturn 44 years of jurisprudence, Miranda v. Arizona 384 U.S. 436 (1966), after a single unsuccessful bomb attempt. While the administration will claim that they are letting Miranda stand, and that they are only altering subsequent cases involving the public safety exception, make no mistake: This move is a dangerous chipping-away at our Fifth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights that could have come right out of David Addington’s birthday wish list.

It’s obvious what’s going on. President Obama is thinking to himself, “I don’t have the luxury of the ivory tower now. If we are attacked by terrorists, everyone will hold me responsible.” Under this logic, pushing for this law could act as a little insurance policy on his anti-terror credentials, should we suffer attack. I understand why he is tempted to go this route, but I am shocked that he would so brazenly sacrifice such an important legal principal in the heated aftermath of a boneheaded unsuccessful terrorism attempt. I’m terrified to think what this administration will try to do following an actual attack. When I heard A.G. Holder announce that they are seeking to rewrite Miranda on Meet the Press this morning, I nearly got sick and vomited. I did literally start crying.

Mr. Obama:

This move is not only cynical and politically motivated, but it is downright cowardly. You are taking steps to weaken a linchpin of American jurisprudence because you are scared of becoming one-term President in the aftermath of an attack. Don’t think that the American won’t figure out what you are doing. This is not only amoral but it is politically stupid and transparent.

Many of us who helped elect you have been disheartened in recent decades by the Supreme Court’s ongoing erosion of civil liberties. We looked to the political process–in the person of you–to help reverse this trend. We civil libertarians knew that Justice Sotomayor was no enthusiastic protector of the Bill of Rights, but we supported her nomination anyway as a measure of good faith in your judgment. As far as I’m concerned, with this latest move, that reservoir of good faith has run out. The last thing we thought was even on the table was the altercation of Miranda, given your scholarly background.

Mr. President, before you took an oath to defend the Constitution, you took an oath to uphold it. I know you did not practice much law, but speaking as someone who actually works in a courtroom, I promise you that this proposal will have far-reaching consequences, even for those who are accused of crimes having nothing to do with terrorism. I have simply seen too many people intimidated into confession–within the bounds of current law–to sit by and watch Miranda further weakened by one ounce.

As a supporter, fellow lawyer, and person of conscience, I beg you to reconsider. Say it aint so, Mr. President. Say it aint so.