Tuesday night's Democratic Presidential debate in Philadelphia included some of the most serious discussions of Iraq, Iran, and global warming that we've had thus far during the campaign season. I was happy to get the opportunity to speak clearly and directly to why I believe I've offered the boldest, most honest assessments on all three of these critical issues.
But they aren't the only areas where the stakes are high and there are clear differences among the candidates. And so, today I want to talk about a few things we weren't asked by the moderators Tuesday night at Drexel University.
For me, it starts with our Constitution. In November of 2006, the American people overwhelmingly elected Democrats with a mandate to change course. Much attention was focused on Iraq, but make no mistake - Americans were also signaling that they wanted Congress to rein in the abuses to the Constitution under the Bush administration and the Republican Congress. Over the last few weeks, we've seen issues pertaining to the rule of law come up time and again.
Retroactive immunity. Waterboarding. The qualifications and judgment of Judge Michael Mukasey. Data mining. Warrantless wiretaps. The list, sadly, goes on...
At no point Tuesday night was I or any of my fellow candidates asked about their opinions these issues -- some of the most important the next President will face. Not once. So I want to take this opportunity now to talk about these issues.
1. Less than two weeks ago, Senator Dodd, you announced you would filibuster any FISA legislation that included retroactive immunity. Why are you opposed to amnesty?
Quite simply: you can't defend America if you don't defend the Constitution.
The Bush administration came to the telecom companies, some even before 9/11, and asked them to eavesdrop on Americans. They didn't produce court orders or warrants to justify their surveillance. And the telecoms went along with it.
These companies have some of the best legal counsel money can buy. They know the law through and through. And they broke it anyway. That is inexcusable and I'm not about to let Congress step in and stop lawsuits against them for violating the privacy of ordinary Americans.
2. Do you think waterboarding is torture?
Absolutely, according to both US law and international conventions. And in my view, the Bush Administration knows full well it is.
3. You were the first Democratic Senator to announce your opposition to Michael Mukasey's nomination. Why do you think he isn't qualified to be Attorney General?
A lot has been made of Judge Mukasey's troubling stance on waterboarding and torture more broadly. While I think those are critically important questions, his beliefs on executive power are in many ways far more important. The attorney general must be a reliable defender of the rule of law.
But Mr. Mukasey seems to share the exact same ideology as other members of the Bush administration. He thinks the President has the authority to ignore the rule in the name of national security. Mr. Mukasey doesn't seem to understand the oath we take: we don't swear to support and defend the Constitution OR protect the country. We defend the Constitution TO protect the country.
For that reason alone, he should be disqualified to serve as the highest-ranking law enforcement official in the United States government. For me, he is. And I would hope the rest of my opponents--Republican or Democrat--would agree. Because it's time we elect a President who understands that while America's strength may come from our military and wealth - its greatness comes from our faith in the values expressed in our Constitution.
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