Saturday, April 7, 2012

Long Briefs 2: We Are Poor Little Lambs Who've Lost Our Way

It's been a busy week, which is one reason I haven't written as much as I should: with so many topics to choose from, I couldn't decide where to dive in. So let me begin for now with the Supreme Court's decision in Florence v. Bd. of Chosen Freeholders, which permits authorities to strip-search anyone arrested -- not convicted, mind you -- for even minor offenses. (As emptywheel points out, the real purpose and function of strip-searches is "not as a legitimate means to keep jails safe, but as a way to make it easier to cow select classes of our population", because "searches serve to humiliate, degrade, and erode identity.")

So, of course, many liberal progressive commentators have been up in arms over the Florence decision. What most of them haven't mentioned was that the Department of Justice -- Obama's DOJ, that is -- supported the prisons in the case, as reported by ABC News last October.

The Obama administration is siding with the prisons in the case and urging the court to allow a blanket policy for all inmates set to enter the general prison population.

“When you have a rule that treats everyone the same,” Justice Department lawyer Nicole A. Saharsky argued, “you don’t have folks that are singled out. You don’t have any security gaps.”

(Notice the word "folks" in that statement; it's the Obama touch, following the Bush II precedents.)

To my surprise, though, Obama's support for strip searches was mentioned this morning on NPR's comedy news quiz program, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, by its host Peter Segal. It's not the first time that show has pushed the NPR limits a bit.

I've been mentioning this on Facebook, especially in response to my Tabloid Friend's pro-Obama posts. TF himself hasn't reacted yet, but many of his friends have, in predictable terms. Apparently none of them knew about this, so they began by angrily denying it. (The other stages, including acceptance, will follow soon.) One said that "we" don't know what "the man thinks about it." I replied that we do, and supplied a link to the ABC story. He said that it wasn't really an intervention because Obama didn't dress up as the Lone Ranger and storm the Court chambers with guns blazing. Another argued that Obama couldn't have intervened, because the President doesn't decide which laws he's going to defend -- and then the commenter stumbled all over Obama's initial defense of the Defense of Marriage Act, which has since been withdrawn. Another commenter demanded a link (which I'd included in the comment she was answering), and accused me of being a "whiny leftist."

It's going to be fun to watch how the discussion proceeds. I wasn't surprised that TF and his posse don't know that Obama agrees with the Court on this decision -- they exhibit no tendency to think for themselves, and of course the White House isn't going to inform them, thus leaving them alone in the dark without a guide -- but it's going to be difficult for them to flipflop decorously, to pretend that they opposed the decision out of ignorance and had to change their minds because Obama had gone off in the other direction. It's unlikely, given their loyalty to the POTUS, that they'll continue to oppose the decision: that would make them "whiny leftists." More likely they'll simply try to forget it, but I'll try not to let them.