Posted by on November 07, 2012 in Blog

An under-reported story of this election took place in the fight for the Michigan Supreme Court, where Democratic-backed candidate Bridget McCormack successfully won a seat on the court despite a massive campaign from a DC-based organization to accuse her of “volunteer[ing] to help free a terrorist.”

McCormack, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School and an associate dean of clinical affairs, had previously offered to provide legal representation for Guantanamo Bay detainees, and may have served as an attorney for a one inmate who was later transferred out of Guantanamo into custody in Tajikistan.

The attack ad against McCormack was sponsored by an organization called the Judicial Crisis Network, which claims to advocate for “a nation of limited government; dedicated to the rule of law; with a fair and impartial judiciary.”

The attack ad, which was broadcast in the days before the election with over $1 million spent to buy network time, features Teri Johnson, the mother of a soldier killed in Afghanistan, lambasting McCormack for trying to “represent and help free suspected terrorists.”

The Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that detainees were entitled to a “meaningful” opportunity to contest the legality of their detention.

Despite the incongruity of supporting a “fair and impartial judiciary” and condemning McCormack for ensuring a detainee’s right to a fair trial, the organization accused McCormack herself of hypocrisy, for “running to protect families and children” even though Islamic terrorists “denigrate women…kill children, [and] don’t value life.”

The ad closes with Johnson saying “Bridget McComack volunteered to help free a terrorist,” surreptitiously dropping the word “suspected” from the characterization she used before.

Though it is troubling to see the protection basic constitutional rights, just as the guarantee of a fair trial, twisted into political liabilities, it is encouraging that the voters of Michigan rejected the smear campaign, and in so doing, implicitly upheld the idea that oversight, transparency, and justice are not liabilities in the quest for national security. To the contrary, our security can never be truly secure without them. 

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