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What Would People Think?

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Our President - The Outlaw

[Preliminary Note: Happy New Year y'all]

I don't believe it. I just can't believe it.

President Bush, in signing the Defense Budget (including the anti-torture McCain Amendment) signals his willingness to entirely ignore portions of the statute. You know, 'cuz the Commander in Chief power makes him King and all...enabling him to ignore the law whenever he says it's for National Security.

Go back to the links in my post here and look at the Daily Kos links to see how the Bush Administration is indeed arguing (badly) that he can do anything in the name of national security.

I can't quite tell from the confusing language Bush (or more likely, his lawyers) use with respect to the McCain Amendment how much he intends to ignore that, too. But conservative mag The National Review thinks it knows: "the signing statement . . . conveys the good news that the president is not taking the McCain amendment lying down."

Or as Marty Lederman more colorfully puts it: "
Translation: I reserve the constitutional right to waterboard when it will 'assist' in protecting the American people from terrorist attacks."
I've never been a big fan of Bush, but my opinion of him keeps dropping. I actually considered voting for him in 2000, that long-ago time when the biggest issue was how to spend the surplus. I agreed with Bush on abortion and the like, but I agreed with Gore on the environment and how to spend the surplus. I disagreed with both on the death penalty. So I went for Gore, but not with rage in my heart.

Then came the Iraq war. Even in the beginning, I thought the war was unnecessary and first became politically active by joining in antiwar marches. Now, as it has become increasingly clear that Bush and company misled us into a tragic, unnecessary war, I'm even more angered. Still, I considered the "impeach Bush" crowd to be blindly angry left-wing psychos. Making a historically tragic and idiotic decision did not strike me as an impeachable offense. Making such decisions, right or wrong, is what presidents do. And lots of presidents have lied to us, even FDR.

But this....Now with the illegal domestic eavesdropping and this signing statement, Bush is displaying an entirely new and frightening trait: a casual disregard for the law. Anything Congress does that he disagrees with....well that's just part of his Commander-in-Chief power. So neener, neener Congress. Even if there's NO NEED to break the law. (And there wasn't with the wiretapping - FISA allows retroactive warrants in emergencies. There isn't with torture - as John McCain has ably argued, it's counter-productive in most cases. When the North Vietnamese tortured McCain for names of some important soldiers, he gave them the names of his favorite football team.)

Bush just doesn't seem to care enough to even check whether there's a legal way to do things. And THAT, my friends, is the end of democracy. I'm probably going to wimp out and back down on what I'm saying now....but for the moment I'm serious as a heart attack:


Why am I so pissed off? Because I believe in the rule of law. I'll close with the immortal words of Henry Hyde (used in the context of the Clinton impeachment...but so much more relevant here):

That none of us is above the law is a bedrock principle of democracy. To erode that bedrock is to risk even further injustice. To erode that bedrock is to subscribe, to a "divine right of kings" theory of governance, in which those who govern are absolved from adhering to the basic moral standards to which the governed are accountable.

We must never tolerate one law for the Ruler, and another for the Ruled. If we do, we break faith with our ancestors from Bunker Hill, Lexington and Concord to Flanders Field, Normandy, Iwo Jima, Panmunjon, Saigon and Desert Storm.

Let us be clear: The vote that you are asked to cast is, in the final analysis, a vote about the rule of law.

The rule of law is one of the great achievements of our civilization. For the alternative to the rule of law is the rule of raw power. We here today are the heirs of three thousand years of history in which humanity slowly, painfully and at great cost, evolved a form of politics in which law, not brute force, is the arbiter of our public destinies.

We are the heirs of the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic law: a moral code for a free people who, having been liberated from bondage, saw in law a means to avoid falling back into the habit of slaves.

We are the heirs of Roman law: the first legal system by which peoples of different cultures, languages, races, and religions came to live together in a form of political community.

We are the heirs of the Magna Carta, by which the freeman of England began to break the arbitrary and unchecked power of royal absolutism.

We are the heirs of a long tradition of parliamentary development, in which the rule of law gradually came to replace royal prerogative as the means for governing a society of free men and women.

We are the heirs of 1776, and of an epic moment in human affairs when the Founders of this Republic pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honor - sacred honor - to the defense of the rule of law.

We are the heirs of a tragic civil war, which vindicated the rule of law over the appetites of some for owning others.

We are the heirs of the 20th century's great struggles against totalitarianism, in which the rule of law was defended at immense cost against the worst tyrannies in human history. The "rule of law" is no pious aspiration from a civics textbook. The rule of law is what stands between all of us and the arbitrary exercise of power by the state. The rule of law is the safeguard of our liberties. The rule of law is what allows us to live our freedom in ways that honor the freedom of others while strengthening the common good. The rule of law is like a three legged stool: one leg is an honest Judge, the second leg is an ethical bar and the third is an enforceable oath. All three are indispensable in a truly democratic society.


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