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Taking liberties with Lincoln

January 22, 2013
Kyle Smith
1/20/2013
Source …..

LincolnHe suspended habeas corpus, ignored the First Amendment and jailed those who disagreed with him. Oscar voters self-righteously protest the politics of ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ but ignore the cracks in Honest Abe’s myth

In handing out their top honors next month, Academy Award voters seem set to implicitly condone the suspension of civil liberties, unlawful imprisonment and blatantly unconstitutional actions by a president who used wartime as an excuse for dictatorial acts.

That president was Abraham Lincoln, and Oscar voters are absolutely fine with “Lincoln” sanitizing his record.

But why the double standard? Voting members of the Academy are lining up to announce they won’t support “Zero Dark Thirty,” which they insulted last week by denying its director Kathryn Bigelow a Best Director nomination she was all but universally considered to have earned. Liberal actors Martin Sheen and Ed Asner have already stepped forward to protest the movie, which they believe advocates torture. Bigelow has said that the film honestly dramatizes various methods that were used by the CIA in the search for Osama bin Laden and stresses that “depiction is not endorsement.”

“Zero Dark Thirty” never comes close to making a moral defense of illegal acts, though it implies that in wartime some disquieting acts may be necessary. “Lincoln,” by completely ignoring unsavory facts, takes far more liberties with history. But Oscar voters know little about the Lincoln administration, so they’re much easier to mislead about what happened 150 years ago.

Brooking no dissent

Immediately after the Civil War broke out, Abraham Lincoln suspended habeas corpus — the constitutional right every detained American enjoys to demand his day in court. Lincoln’s action gave him free rein to lock up without trial anyone labeled “disloyal,” indefinitely.

When John Merryman of Maryland was jailed for Confederate sympathies, the chief justice of the Supreme Court demanded he be given due process. The Constitution does grant the power to suspend habeas rights in the event of “invasion or rebellion,” but the Supreme Court (in this case, the chief justice, in an independent ruling) decided that such power resided not with the president, but with Congress. Lincoln simply ignored the order. Merryman remained imprisoned without trial for seven more weeks before he was released.

Three months after Merryman’s arrest, in the same state, Lincoln’s men were fooled by a false rumor that a majority of Maryland legislators were preparing to vote to secede. So they arrested several of them.

Lincoln went on to trash the First Amendment, issuing a declaration through Secretary of War Edwin Stanton that illegalized any “act, speech, or writing, in discouraging volunteer enlistments, or in any way giving aid and comfort to the enemy, or in any other disloyal practice.”

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