a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

*Every* day is Constitution Day

Posted by Thomas Nephew on September 19th, 2008

I helped get a mass mailing out the door on Wednesday, to members of the facebook and “Get FISA Right” groups.  The full text is here or here; from the mailing:

…This election needs to be about more than lipstick, hockey moms, and Blackberries. It’s time to talk about the Constitution and how the two candidates propose to undo the damage of the past eight years.We’re contacting editorial boards across the country asking that they:

  • urge presidential candidates to present their views on constitutional issues on September 17 — and for the rest of the campaign
  • prepare editorials on restoring the rule of law to the next administration and Congress
  • report on and analyze how the candidates would exert their executive authority as President. (Charlie Savage and the Boston Globe did this late last year; it’s time for a remake.)

In addition, we believe it is critical that the televised presidential debates pose questions about constitutional issues like warrantless electronic surveillance, torture, abrogation of habeas corpus, and how to restore our Constitution.

Again, we need your help — in two ways.

1. Please take a moment to write and send a *short* letter (best no more than 4 sentences!) to the editor of your local newspaper, putting these demands in your own words. We wouldn’t be “Get FISA Right” if we didn’t hope you’d mention rolling back the infamous FISA Amendment Act, but these letters will really have more impact if we don’t provide a canned script for you to follow.

If you don’t know your local paper’s letter to the editor email address, use this tool to find ones in your area. (Please don’t send the same letter to multiple newspapers, though.)

2. Help us with our op-ed piece. Collaborative writing — of open letters, blog posts, ad scripts — has always been one of Get FISA Right’s strengths; and with the media attention we’ve gotten so far, we think we’ve got a good shot at getting this op-ed piece placed. Please join in here. […]

The conception and execution of this was interesting; the American Freedom Campaign held a press conference last Friday that a couple of us from “Get FISA Right” attended.  The editorial board outreach effort was AFC’s, and we thought we’d see if we could lend a hand by encouraging a fairly large base of support (about 23,000 people on myBarackObama, and another 2,300 on facebook) to support that with letters to the editor.  The drafting process took place on a “wiki” site (the same one being used for the op-ed piece), which makes it easy to see how a document has changed as different authors add to or subtract from it, and makes collaboration possible even when writers are literally on opposite sides of the country.

Anyhow.  There are plenty of other initiatives going on about constitutional, rule of law, civil liberties and human rights issues this campaign season.  A selection:

Meanwhile, as “Get FISA Right” superactivist Jon Pincus writes, it seems like one of the biggest barriers we face is a deep unwillingness to cover these issues by the media, matched by a general reluctance among politicians to talk about them.  Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick, a rare exception, wrote about this in “It’s the Constitution, Stupid“:

Maybe I live in a teensy little rarefied bubble, in which a handful of constitutional law professors, tetchy libertarians, and paranoid bloggers have been tearing their eyebrows out for the past seven years over the president’s use of the “war on terror” to run his tanks over great swaths of the Constitution and much of the Bill of Rights. Maybe I overestimate American concern that their president likes to eavesdrop on their phone calls and root through their library records. Yet Jane Mayer’s book The Dark Side is on the best-seller list. Sixty-one percent of Americans oppose warrantless wiretapping. And both presidential candidates have recognized Guantanamo for the international disaster it is. So clearly somebody cares about the loss of civil liberties in America. It’s just that nobody wants to talk about it.

Jon concludes:

Like a lot of people, I believe that this election’s a choice between restoring the Constitution and continuing down the path to fascism and a police state.  Okay, maybe that’s not the most pressing issue to everybody … but it certainly seems worth talking about.

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