Team McCain Conference Call: Fred Thompson on National Security

The John McCain campaign continued to roll out its heavy artillery by featuring former Senator and presidential hopeful Fred Thompson.  The McCain campaign had Rudy Giuliani speaking yesterday, and the former-opponent tour took a turn through seriously conservative territory with Thompson.

Jill Hazelbaker started off by reading a statement declaring Barack Obama as “just another typical politician” by rejecting public financing in the election.  They noted that Obama is the first candidate since Watergate to do so, and accused him of not keeping his word.

Fred Thompson then appeared on the call to discuss Boumediene and the political reaction to it.  Thompson says this shows a court more interested in making policy rather than adjudicating.  John McCain opposes judicial activism, while Obama supports it.  Thompson calls the decision bad policy on its face.  The process Congress devised far exceeds the requirements of Geneva, and he noted that dozens of detainees have already been released as a result of this process.  He then detailed all of the ways in which detainees could challenge their detention, which exceeded any that we have offered such detainees in our entire history.

Thompson said that Obama should stop apologizing to the rest of the world for defending ourselves in war.  He scoffed at Obama’s suggestion that we should return to the law-enforcement model and the use of the Blind Sheikh trial as the model.  Discovery rights allowed Rahman to see the lists of unindicted co-conspirators, which went to Osama bin Laden within days.  It also exposed our ability to track terrorists by their satellite phones.  These are the security breaches that will occur when we try these cases in open court, which Obama champions.

How will this affect detention in other non-sovereign areas?  It appears that everyone captured by American military would have to be treated as common criminals rather than an enemy at war against us.  Bill Richardson, the campaign notes, explicitly endorsed that view.  They also noted Obama’s statement about avoiding martyrdom for Osama bin Laden, which indicates that Obama has decided against pursuing an execution for Osama if captured alive.


  • Redstate: News media hasn’t covered Obama’s statements on Boumediene or Osama; how to get the message out?– Fred says if he knew how to do that, “I probably would be the McCain campaign.”  Judicial activism is not a new phenomenon, but we have to continue to hammer the message.  In this particular case, the other two branches worked closely to present a system that matches our precedential history, and the Supreme Court tossed it out in favor of their own policy preferences.  McCain would appoint different kinds of justices.
  • USA Today: Thompson’s reaction to Obama’s withdrawal from public financing? — Just another example of expediency triumphing over Obama’s principles.  He’s in every way a typical politician.  He’s for public financing until it no longer benefits him.
  • Me: Habeas rights for American soldiers to criminal courts — do they exist? — Not sure, but he believes that American soldiers do not have the right to appeal to American appellate courts, and he doesn’t think that American soldiers do not have habeas rights to civil courts, either.  Thompson also says that the habeas rights as applied by SCOTUS here exceed that for American civilians, too, because Americans in state courts cannot use a habeas petition until they have exhausted their state remedies.  Terrorists can circumvent all that, according to the Court.
  • Bloomberg: How would McCain chase Osama bin Laden to “the gates of Hell” and how would that differ from the Bush administration?  Greater use of diplomatic and intelligence leverage.
  • Toledo Blade: Didn’t the administration lay the groundwork for Boumediene by insisting that unlawful combatants don’t get Geneva protections?  Thompson says there are two different issues in play, one being treatment and the other being determinations and process.  Thompson says “one could argue” that we should have had these processes in place earlier, but it was a new situation. Most people put the priority at national defense.  For the last few years, we have had procedures in place, but the Court has now thrown them all out.  Thompson makes the point that the Court has now undermined Geneva by treating the terrorists better than POWs captured in uniform.