Another reason why the Bush Administration has been so gratuitously
contemptuous of legal and moral traditions...
James G. Wilson
james.wilson at law.csuohio.edu
Tue Jan 24 06:16:43 PST 2006
One of the principle tenets of Rovism, which faces serious
electoral challenges every two years, is that the country must be
seriously divided over national security issues. A majority of the
populace must perceive Republicans as more capable and willing to defend
our nation from attack and to assert our interests abroad than their
Democratic rivals. Thus, the atrocities on September 11 presented both
an opportunity and a threat to Rovism. Clearly, the nation would rally
around the President and give him great discretion in the future. But
at least initially, the Republicans could not paint Democrats as
"pro-terrorists" as easily as in previous decades when the Right smeared
the Left as pinkos and fellow travellers. Even though I work in the
so-called "radical" academy, I have yet to meet anyone, anywhere, who
condoned those terrorist acts. Some liberals and leftists have been
attracted to Communist and Socialist approaches over the decades, but
hardly anyone on the more secular left would find common cause with
these violent religious fanatics.
Thus, one of the primary purposes of the war on Iraq was to
repolarize the country. That succeeded quite well.
But it was also important to force Democrats to disagree over the
more focused conflict against terrorism. Thus, the Bush administration
created the following set of executive powers that could be used by any
President anytime in the future:
1. The President can determine the extent of threat to national security.
2. The Executive Branch can, without warrant, ignore the Fourth
Amendment and listen to any private conversations.
3. Based upon information gathered through these warrantless searches
and any other data it may gather, the Executive can arrest any citizen
or alien and keep them indefinitely incarcerated without access to the
legal system (Of course, the Supreme Court in Hamdi put a small,
legalistic obstacle in the way instead of adopting the courageous
positions of Justices Scalia and Stevens. Scalia's dissent is one of
the greatest legal opinions of all time; those who equate him and Thomas
do not understand the significance of Hamdi. Shame on Breyer, Ginsburg,
4. The Executive Branch can abuse and torture any of these people as
long as it wants--even after they could not possibly have any
information. Apparently, the Executive Branch also can "outsource" its
torture to even more sadistic regimes.
5. The President can lie about any of the above.
6. Who knows what else the Bush administration has done....
Well, somewhere along this grisly list, most progressives,
liberals, and many moderates will disagree on policy and/or moral
grounds. Thus, the Republican hate machine can paint them as soft on
terrorists while intimating that they actually are pro-terrorism.
Of course, whatever else you want to say about Rovism, you have
to concede its willingness to gamble. There was a reasonable chance
that a large majority of the American people would have been repelled by
such tools of totalitarianism. At least so far, such has not been the
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