CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Candidates' views differ on detainee policy

51954mccainnobama_embedded_prod_aff For months now, John McCain and Barack Obama have peppered their campaign speeches with pledges to close the Guantánamo Bay prison camps.

Both have cast the detention center as harmful to U.S. foreign policy and a source of international alienation. Both say they would move the terrorism suspects to U.S. soil.

But delve a little deeper, and that's where the harmony ends.

An analysis of McCain campaign statements and policy proposals shows that the Vietnam-era prisoner of war would seek to beef up the Bush administration's detainee doctrine.

And Barack Obama would seek to dismantle some of its key tenets.

So much so that Obama welcomed the 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court decision June 12 that restored to war-on-terrorism captives at Guantánamo the right to sue for their freedom in U.S. courts.

The presumed Democratic presidential candidate called it ``an important step toward reestablishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law.''

In contrast, his Republican rival, McCain, echoed White House sentiment to condemn the Supreme Court for handing down ``one of the worst decisions in the history of this country.''

''We made it very clear that these are enemy combatants,'' he said. ``They do not and never have been given the rights that citizens of this country have.''

At McCain campaign headquarters, national security advisor Randy Scheunemann bristles at the notion that the Arizona senator has walked in lockstep with Bush administration policy.

Rather, Scheunemann said, McCain has been a maverick. He publicly advocated closure of the camps long before the Bush administration, and has pledged in his campaign to do so to enhance this country's international standing. [Mark Godsey]

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