This is the twelfth post in an ongoing series regarding the major Presidential candidates and their views on civil liberties.
This post is about Senator John McCain's (R-AZ) and Senator Barack Obama's (D-IL) views pertaining to the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The Fourteenth is less well-known than the Thirteenth, but we know all remember it has something to do with slavery, because that's what we were taught in school.
Well, here's the text:
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.
Section 3. No one shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.
Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.
Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Whew. That's a lot. Fortunately, for the purposes of a civil rights discussion, we only need to look at Section 1, which basically says that everyone born here is a citizen, and that states can't deprive them of any rights guaranteed by the Constitution, specifically Fifth Amendment rights, and that the laws must apply equally to all citizens.
So, let's look at Barack Obama first.
One of the common catch phrases of the right these days when discussing illegal immigration is "anchor babies", which refers to children born in the U.S. from parents who are here illegally. There's quite a movement to have the Constitution amended to qualify that Fourteenth Amendment in such a way to make these children not be automatically granted citizenship. So, if a candidate were opposed to citizenship for these "anchor babies" that would certainly be infringing upon Fourteenth Amendment guarantees.
Fortunately for Barack Obama, I can't find that he has made any such statements.
However, he does regularly infringe upon certain Fourteenth Amendment guarantees.
Any objective observer would notice immediately that affirmative action, by it's very nature, runs afoul of the Fourteenth Amendment, by making it acceptable to bestow extra privileges upon a person or group due to race, gender, age, sexual orientation, etc.
However, such views conflict with the facts.
Stephanopoulos: You've been a strong supporter of affirmative action.
Later on in the interview, he does admit that he hopes that at some unnamed date in the future, affirmative action becomes unnecessary.
Obama: I would like to think that if we make good decisions and we invest in early childhood education, improved K through 12, if we have done what needs to be done to ensure that kids who are qualified to go to college can afford it, that affirmative action becomes a diminishing tool for us to achieve racial equality in this society.
However, that belief merely underscores the fact that he believes it's still necessary now.
Now, on to John McCain.
As with Obama, I can't find anything that suggests that he's opposed to citizenship for "anchor babies". In fact, he has shown off his legendary temper when asked about it.
As for affirmative action, historically he's been for it, with limitations.
McCain supports the following principles regarding affirmative action and discrimination:
The federal government should continue affirmative action programs only if such programs do not include quotas The Federal Government should consider affirmative action programs if ordered by a court to rectify specific programs.
But, recently has announced support for an Arizona initiative to ban affirmative action in that state. (One wonders why Arizona would need to pass a law that confirms the Fourteenth Amendment, but I digress.)
Interestingly, Barack Obama called this a flip-flop. Does that mean that it will be a flip-flop for Obama when that nebulous date comes when Obama decides that it's no longer necessary too?
So, to the grades:
Obama: D+. As a long time supporter of affirmative action, it's difficult to imagine giving him a higher grade than this.
McCain: C+. This would be higher if he'd been more consistent in his anti-affirmative action views. If he sticks to this, his grade will improve over time (but not until after the 2008 election). Without his "flip-flop" here, he'd be looking at a C- at best.
Since I'm attempting to grade the candidates on how well they support civil liberties, I've tried to be as objective as possible on all my grades. I have rated candidates higher because they've supported civil liberties, even if it was a civil liberty that I personally disagreed with. I've graded them lower when they've opposed civil liberties that I disagree with.
I have a problem being objective on this one and I admit it. Racism is one of the few things that I am an absolutist about. Racism is racism is racism is racism. You can call it affirmative action if that helps you sleep better at night, but that doesn't change what it is.
So, if you think my grades on this one are lower than they should be, you are entitled to your opinion. I feel, if anything, I'm being kinder to both than they truly deserve.
Fourteenth Amendment: Advantage McCain
|First Amendment*||F ||D-|
* Obama's First Amendment grade lowered as documented in this post.
UPDATE: Obama's First Amendment grade lowered to F as documented in this post.