First religion, now politics. I apparently just canNOT let sleeping dogs lie. I have all kinds of funny, good stuff to write -- my Mom's birthday is today, my oldest friend in the world visited over the weekend and we had a great time, there's this awesome "Concert In The Cave" music series out where we live -- but there is legislation pending in Congress that I (and lots of others from across the political spectrum) believe to be the most important to face our country in my lifetime and I can't just let it go without some kind of comment.
It's no secret I'm what most people would consider a liberal. Fundamentally that means I think government has a significant role to play in shaping the society we live in for the greatest good, for the greatest number of its citizens.
I'm conservative in the sense that I believe whatever the proper role of government is, it should fulfill that role in a fiscally responsible manner. Balanced budgets, paying your bills, investing wisely, all of that stuff. I also believe in old-fashioned things like patriotism, justice, loyalty, honor, the great traditions of our military, strong defense, self-reliance, and responsibility.
All of which is why I find the current administration's philosophy of "The Unitary Executive" so profoundly alarming. Here's one way of stating the position from FindLaw (emphasis mine):
However, Bush's recent actions make it clear that he interprets the coordinate construction approach extremely aggressively. In his view, and the view of his Administration, that doctrine gives him license to overrule and bypass Congress or the courts, based on his own interpretations of the Constitution -- even where that violates long-established laws and treaties, counters recent legislation that he has himself signed, or (as shown by recent developments in the Padilla case) involves offering a federal court contradictory justifications for a detention.
This is a form of presidential rebellion against Congress and the courts, and possibly a violation of President Bush's oath of office, as well.
After all, can it be possible that that oath means that the President must uphold the Constitution only as he construes it - and not as the federal courts do?
And can it be possible that the oath means that the President need not uphold laws he simply doesn't like - even though they were validly passed by Congress and signed into law by him?
In a nutshell, our President and his team of advisors (notably VP Dick Cheney, former White House legal advisor John Yoo, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales) believe that the President of the United States has the power under the Constitution as Commander In Chief to do pretty much anything he wants if he believes he is defending the country from attack. So far this has included the belief that the President can ignore laws passed by Congress, can use Presidential Signing Statements to essentially reinterpret those laws, can decide what court cases the Judiciary gets to hear, can detain suspects (even US citizens) indefinitely without recourse to a defense, can wiretap our phones and emails without oversight or probably cause, and can abrogate or reinterpret foreign treaties at will.
In other words, the President is above the law, because if he does something then by definition it's not illegal.
Once that concept is codified into law, we no longer have a constitutional democracy. Whatever party you belong to, or whatever political or religious philosophy you align yourself with, willfully elevating any of the three branches of government to a level that cannot be checked at all by any other is an insanely disastrous course of action. George Bush won't be President forever -- if you're a Republican, imagine this kind of unchecked power in the hands of a Hillary Clinton or a Michael Moore. Imagine that someone truly nuts gets elected, and can then declare almost anyone who opposes him as an "enemy combatant" -- even US Citizens -- able to be whisked away to secret prisons in far-away countries, tortured at will, and denied even the possibility of redress from the courts.
Those are the tools of the tyrant, and we're on the brink of writing them into law.
I want to quote at length from Andrew Sullivan, who used to be a strong backer of George Bush before it became clear that "The Unitary Excutive" is nothing but a euphemism for a dictatorship. The full post is here, and I encourage everyone to read it. This is a very real Constitutional Crisis facing us, and we remain silent at the peril of our very liberty.
Whatever else this is, it is not a constitutional democracy. It is a thinly-veiled military dictatorship, subject to only one control: the will of the Great Decider. And the war that justifies this astonishing attack on American liberty is permanent, without end. And check the vagueness of the language: "purposefully supported" hostilities. Could that mean mere expression of support for terror? Remember that many completely innocent people have already been incarcerated for years without trial or any chance for a fair hearing on the basis of false rumors or smears or even bounty hunters. Or could it be construed, in the rhetoric of Hannity and O'Reilly, as merely criticizing the Great Decider and thereby being on the side of the terrorists?
All I know is that al Qaeda is winning battles every week now. And they are winning them because their aim of gutting Western liberty is shared by the president of the United States. The fact that we are finding this latest, chilling stuff out now - while this horrifying bill is being rushed into law to help rescue some midterms - is beyond belief. It must be stopped, filibustered, prevented. And anyone who cares about basic constitutional freedom - conservatives above all - should be in the forefront of stopping it.