Restoring the Constitution

One of the largest reasons I joined the Dodd campaign and why I think Chris Dodd is the best candidate for the presidency is his leadership on restoring the Constitution and protecting the right of habeas corpus for all Americans. He fundamentally understands that our moral authority is tied into our ability to lead and our security.

Habeas corpus is an unfortunately isn't an issue that's talked about a lot in American politics. It is a right enshrined in the US Constitution to ensure that when the government detains a person, that person must be brought before a court and be tried or released. Habeas corpus is a hallmark of what protects our republic from the creep of tyranny. The right of habeas corpus was gutted by the Military Commissions Act of 2006, a law whose bland name belies its pernicious character.  A New York Times editorial in September, 2006 documented the extent of the MCA's reach beyond habeas and into our relationship with the Geneva Convention, how we treat enemy combatants, how our courts weigh secret and coerced evidence, how the MCA limits review by our independent judiciary, and a definition of torture that is so narrow as to exclude rape from being included.

At some point, hopefully quite soon, the Iraq War will be over. Patriotic, courageous leaders will bind up our nation's wounds and we, as a nation, will move on as best we can. Hopefully we will be able to remember the mistakes that surrounded the Bush administration's policies before and during the Iraq War. But we will remain Americans and we will work together to restore our standing in the world.

But habeas corpus and the rights enshrined in our Constitution that depend on it to have meaning are a part of our national DNA. And unless it is restored soon, we risk fundamentally altering who we are as a people and what we stand for in the world.

In my humble opinion, short of responsibly ending the Iraq war, reversing the loss of Constitutionally protected rights during the Bush administration (and particularly under the MCA) is the most important challenge facing our nation starting January 20, 2009. But, like many of the issues that confront us today, we cannot afford to wait until the next president takes office to look for bold leadership to change our course. We need leadership today and Senator Dodd is standing up with conviction to do just that.

I was excited to hear Senator Dodd state that in Sunday night's debate that the first thing he will do when elected president is “restore the constitutional rights in our country. This administration has done great damage to them. I would do that in the first day, I wouldn't wait 100 days.”

Senator Dodd isn't stopping there. He's continuing to push for his legislation, the Restoring the Constitution Act, to be given a vote in the Senate — it would reverse the Military Commissions Act and return the rights crafted by our founders to the American public, while helping to restore our standing in the world.

Senator Dodd will be giving a major policy speech today at Cardozo Law School that will lay out his vision for restoring habeas corpus, honoring the Geneva Conventions, and renewing America's moral authority in the world. This will make us more secure at home and abroad. And it's the best course for America.

Ari Melber of The Nation wrote in January that Senator Dodd is “the best hope for rolling back the MCA.” Senator Dodd is leading on this critical issue, but he needs your help – contact your senators and ask them to cosponsor the Restoring the Constitution Act. You can also become a citizen co-sponsor of the Restoring the Constitution Act by visiting

About the Author(s)

Matt Browner-Hamlin