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DO EXTRAORDINARY TIMES call for extraordinary measures? When it comes to circumventing the constitution in a time of war, Professor Kathleen Sullivan, head of the Stanford Center for Constitutional Law, argues that extraordinary times call for extraordinary restraint.

“The purpose of a written constitution is to set forth antecedent rules that prevent us from doing things we regret when we get scared or when we get popular animus or popular fear going,” Sullivan said in the Roberts Lecture last February. She went on to compare our constitution to the ropes that bound Odysseus to his ship’s mast when he was tempted by the Sirens’ calls.

According to Sullivan, who was a Penn Law visiting professor and National Constitution Center scholar in the fall of 2004-2005, this ideal contrasts with the numerous cases in history where the Constitution was overridden by a wartime president: Lincoln’s suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, Truman’s seizure of the steel mills in the Korean War, and FDR’s internment of Japanese citizens in World War II.
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