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Thursday, December 22, 2005

L'Etat, c'est George? Not What the Founders Had in Mind

It sure does feel an awful long way from the Declaration of Independence these days, doesn't it? And yet, there are those who continue to blather on about the President's absolute right of authority in all things under his "war powers" (the latest catch phrase in a long line of enabling excuses) as the Chief Executive.

Well, for how long? I mean, honestly, how long does George get to play King?

You cannot tell me that that the possible threat of terrorism today arouses more fear and a more pressing need for the suspension of civil liberties and the abdication of Congressional responsibility than the threat of total nuclear annihilation did at the height of the Cold War.

The people who are enabling and propping up this Administration are either a bunch of power-hungry nutjobs (i.e. Dick Cheney, the only human being on the planet who thinks the President has lost power over the last 30 years) or complete and total babies. (If you don't believe me, read Digby, who is, as always, spot on.)

But do the legal arguments of the Administration supporters hold water? Not so much. Glenn Greenwald has a superb post today calling on those shilling for the Administration to put up or shut up. I want to join Glenn's call: What limits, if any, are you saying the President has?

Does this utter lack of limits apply solely to this, particular Preznit? Or would you be comfortable with a...say...President Hillary Clinton being able to spy on anyone she likes without ever having to justify her agenda or probable cause or with Congress having no oversight responsibilities or right thereto? (Not that I'm saying Hillary is going to win the Dem. nomination, but she does seem to be the GOP bogeyman du jour.)

If you wouldn't be comfortable with Hillary wielding the magic Presidential sceptre and spying on anyone she likes whenever she likes for whatever purpose she likes, what makes you think that George Bush gets to do so without any check and balance?

Lest everyone get the impression that all Republicans support this unconsitutional, Fourth Amendment snubbing by the Administration, think again. According to the WSJ, libertarian conservatives are steamed. There are a number of people on both sides of the political divide who understand this question very clearly: is it loyalty to a particular man and the maintenance of power for your political party as your sole focus of existence? Or does the liberty and law embodied in our Constitution, our laws, our history mean more than a petty, craven, illegal power grab?

So, which is it? Do you honor the Constitution and our nation's laws? Or is loyalty to the President, no matter his actions and their repurcussions on the Republic, more important? I await a thoughtful response along with Glenn.

And should anyone wonder whether I am against surveillance altogether, the answer is an emphatic no. Surveillance is an important, and very useful, tool. I have gone before a judge any number of times with police investigators to obtain warrants, without which investigations into crimes would not have been able to be solved. But surveillance is also a very powerful weapon, to be used with caution -- which is why oversight is required by a third party who can provide that caution when an overzealous actor might not be thinking clearly. No one, not even the President of the United States, should be given absolute power. (Read the Federalist Papers again, if you need a refresher on why this is.)

What I want to know is why so-called "conservatives" suddenly think that power grabs are A-Okay. (And I use that term loosely, since I know people who are truly conservative -- and not just politically motivated -- and are appalled by this latest Administration overreach.) If you are simply defending the Administration because "that's what you do," then fine. But be honest with yourself and the rest of us. It's time to put up or shut up.