Friday, May 4, 2007

Maybe Bush would have respect for The Law if it were embodied by sarcastic floating yellow orbs

You remember the whole scandal where the Bush administration admitted to illegal wiretaps? I know, I know, there are so many scandals it's easy to forget the older ones. But the administration claims that it's been obeying the law recently--since January, even! Around five months of obeying the law? They might be getting hooked. But no worries--they're just playing along for now.
[S]enior officials, including Michael McConnell, the new director of national intelligence, said they believed that the president still had the authority under Article II of the Constitution to once again order the N.S.A. to conduct surveillance inside the country without warrants.


Mr. McConnell emphasized that all domestic electronic surveillance was now being conducted with court-approved warrants, and said that there were no plans "that we are formulating or thinking about currently" to resume domestic wiretapping without warrants.

"But I'd just highlight," he said, "Article II is Article II, so in a different circumstance, I can't speak for the president what he might decide."

He can quit whenever he wants!

Well, let's look at article II. Hmm... the President "shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed." One might think that would mean, y'know, not breaking the law. I guess not.

Especially given that the President is supposedly above the law:
"Law does not apply" -- that is [Harvey] Mansfield's belief, and the belief of the Bush movement. I didn't think it was possible, but Mansfield, with today's article in The Wall St. Journal, actually goes even further in advocating pure lawlessness and tyranny than he did in that remarkable Weekly Standard screed. He begins by describing "the debate between the strong executive and its adversary, the rule of law." He then says: "In some circumstances I could see myself defending the rule of law," but "the rule of law has two defects, each of which suggests the need for one-man rule."


In the course of explaining how the rule of law applies only in "quiet times," Mansfield also argues that "civil liberties are subject to circumstances," not inalienable, and that "in time of war the greater dangers may be to the majority from a minority." Thus, he explains -- in what might be my favorite sentence -- "A free government should show its respect for freedom even when it has to take it away."


The point here is not to spend much time arguing that Mansfield's authoritarian cravings are repugnant to our political traditions. The real point is that Mansfield's mindset is the mindset of the Bush movement, of the right-wing extremists who have taken over the Republican Party and governed our country completely outside of the rule of law for the last six years. Mansfield makes these arguments more honestly and more explicitly, but there is nothing unusual or uncommon about him. He is simply expounding the belief in tyrannical lawlessness on which the Bush movement (soon to be led by someone else, but otherwise unchanged) is fundamentally based.

This is why he is published in The Weekly Standard and The Wall St. Journal -- the two most influential organs for so-called "conservative" political thought. All sorts of the most political influential people in our country -- from Dick Cheney to Richard Posner to John Yoo and The Weekly Standard -- believe and have argued for exactly this vision of government. They literally do not believe in our constitutional framework and our most defining political values. They have declared a literally endless War which, they claim, not only justifies but compels the vesting of unlimited power in the President -- "unlimited" by Congress, the courts, American public opinion and the rule of law.

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