Tuesday, May 15, 2012
ACLU Rates Obama Below Paul, Johnson
ACLU Rates Obama Below Ron Paul and Libertarian Gary Johnson
ACLU report card finds fault with Obama, rivals
Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, January 2, 2012
The American Civil Liberties Union has issued "Liberty Watch 2012," its report card for presidential candidates on issues like surveillance, torture, gay rights and immigration. No one gets an A, including President Obama.
Obama, the only Democrat among the 10 candidates rated, got a perfect score - four "torches" - on only one issue, allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military, for his backing of the December 2010 law that repealed "don't ask, don't tell."
But he received lower marks on immigration, abortion rights and "closing Guantanamo Bay and indefinite detention," where his one-torch rating was attributed to backtracking on a promise to shut the prison for suspected terrorists and his support for holding their trials in military commissions.
The ACLU gave Obama a zero rating in the category of "ending a surveillance state," citing his support for renewing the search and surveillance provisions of the Patriot Act.
The ACLU has praised Obama for banning torture and closing secret CIA prisons, but says he has refused to hold government wrongdoers accountable. The organization has gone to court on behalf of alleged victims of illegal wiretapping and CIA abductions during the Bush administration, lawsuits that Obama's Justice Department says threaten state secrets.
The nonprofit civil liberties group is officially nonpartisan and does not endorse political candidates. Its report focuses on issues of government power and minority rights that attract little attention in most presidential elections.
The survey gave low ratings to most of the Republican hopefuls, marks they might want to trumpet in Tuesday's Iowa caucuses to appeal to conservatives who consider the ACLU a fighting word. Three candidates - Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann - received zero torches in all seven categories.
Romney, the ACLU noted, has endorsed Arizona's "show us your papers" immigration law, called for doubling the size of Guantanamo, backed waterboarding of terrorism suspects and supported a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Santorum wants criminal prosecution of doctors who perform abortions, the survey said, and Bachmann has proposed amending the Constitution to eliminate citizenship rights for U.S.-born children of illegal immigrants.
Fellow Republicans Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry were given zeros on all issues but immigration, where both men's statements opposing wholesale deportations have angered hard-liners and have been seen as liabilities in the primary campaign.
Gingrich, the ACLU said, supports allowing youngsters brought to the United States by their parents to earn the right to citizenship by serving in the armed forces. The ACLU noted that Perry opposed a U.S.-Mexico border fence, said Arizona's immigration law "would not be the right direction for Texas," and signed a bill as governor in 2001 granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants attending college.
Both candidates were given two torches on the issue, same as Obama. The president supports a path to citizenship for undocumented youths who enter the military or college, and he has challenged the Arizona law in court. But his administration increased deportations to record levels and expanded Secure Communities, which requires local authorities to forward arrestees' fingerprints to the federal government for immigration checks.
The highest overall rating went to former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, a Republican-turned-Libertarian, who opposes the Patriot Act and - unlike Obama - supports the right of gays and lesbians to marry. Among the leading Republican candidates, libertarian-leaning Rep. Ron Paul also got a higher score than Obama despite low ratings in several categories.
The ACLU gave the Texas congressman high marks for opposing the Patriot Act and indefinite detention of suspected terrorists, condemning waterboarding and voting to repeal "don't ask, don't tell." But it criticized Paul's call for an end to "birthright citizenship" for children of illegal immigrants, his support of the law that denies federal marriage benefits to same-sex couples and his opposition to abortion.
Obama, endorsed by abortion-rights groups in 2008, was given three torches on "reproductive choice" by the ACLU, which cited his support for federal funding of Planned Parenthood and family-planning programs but also his bowing to Republican demands to ban funding for poor women's abortions in Washington, D.C., as part of legislation to prevent a government shutdown.
Obama also accepted restrictions on insurance coverage for abortion in the national health care law that passed in 2010.
Report card link
The survey can be viewed at www.aclulibertywatch.org/ALWCandidateReportCard.pdf.
E-mail Bob Egelko at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared on page A - 5 of the San Francisco Chronicle