With the election just days away, The National Law Journal, as it has in the past, invited the major presidential and vice presidential candidates to write about the legal issues facing the next administration and to offer their views on such topics as the rule of law, the federal court system, judicial appointees and priorities for the U.S. Department of Justice.
So far, only Senator John McCain has accepted the invitation.
This year’s presidential election will have a lasting impact. Our nation needs a new direction — different from the path pursued by the current administration, and also different from the failed liberal policies of the past proposed by Senator Barack Obama.
We face enormous challenges and you, the voters, deserve more than platitudes. I feel it is my duty as a candidate to tell you specifically how my presidency would improve our government and our country. In this column, I want to concentrate on what would be three important priorities in a McCain administration: keeping the Department of Justice politically neutral, focusing law enforcement programs on addressing important issues of the day and appointing strict constructionist judges.
Much responsibility for the effective administration of justice is entrusted to the dedicated men and women who toil day in and day out at the Department of Justice. My first objective would be to ensure that the department is, and remains, above the political fray. The department must function with integrity and effectiveness above all else.
I would also bolster law enforcement programs that will aid our struggling economy and address the ongoing threat of terrorism and other public safety concerns.
Unfortunately, we have all recently observed what happens when banks, major financial institutions and other engines of commerce become subject to market manipulators. Those who make a mockery of rules designed to keep our markets transparent and efficient must be brought to justice.
It will be my aim to boost our financial system and keep our economy strong. Effective enforcement of our nation’s securities and banking laws will help accomplish these goals.
In particular, the FBI’s mortgage fraud task force is an important tool for keeping our markets clean. No matter who they are or where they hide, we must hold accountable those who would disregard the law, placing innocent citizens and investors in peril.
Preventing terrorist attacks would be a top priority of the McCain administration. As a number of observers have noted, our nation is safer than it was on Sept. 11, 2001, but not yet safe. Upon taking office, I would ensure we win the wars we are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. I will also review our counterterror operations to ensure their effectiveness.
As we use aggressively all lawful means to combat threats, we must also ensure that our counterterror programs enjoy bipartisan support and widespread public acceptance. The terrorists win if we fight them using tactics that undermine our strategic goals. As long as I am president, I will ensure that the world never again sees America as a country that tortures. We must always act within the bounds of the law. I will help forge a bipartisan consensus as to where those boundaries are.
Terrorists are not the only threat to public safety. Lax enforcement policies, judges who legislate from the bench and lack of support for law enforcement personnel all continue to force our innocent citizens behind the barred windows of their homes and allow criminals to roam free.
And now drugs are bringing waves of crime and organized gang activity to rural areas thought to be nearly immune from such problems. The federal government must both support state and local law enforcement and effectively enforce federal laws designed to root out violent crime, organized gangs and other interstate criminal activity.
None of these law enforcement efforts will succeed without a judiciary that understands its proper role and its proper mission. Senator Obama would appoint liberal activist judges and supply them with greater sentencing discretion. I will appoint judges who will strictly interpret our Constitution. Senator Obama’s judges would coddle criminals. I will appoint judges who will hold criminals accountable.
Our nation is in need of reform. But the change that Senator Obama speaks of would take our country further off track. We cannot simply change for change’s sake. We must make the right type of change in these and other important areas to keep our nation moving forward.
John McCain is the senior senator from Arizona and the Republican candidate for president of the United States.