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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Monday, May 01, 2006

Glenn Greenwald Rocks

I shouldn't really have to say that, but I will. Greenwald is a civil rights/ first amendment attorney, who has been focusing on the fairly regular lawbreaking by the Bush administration. He is doing work that needs, simply, to be done. His new book is the only serious, scholarly work examining where and how the Bush administration is deviating from tradition and from generally understood principles of constitutional law.

Now, I know what some of you are thinking: Oh, yeah, another moonbat with Bush Derangement Syndrome. Not true. Greenwald explains:
Contrary to [NRO columnist Byron] York's somewhat sloppy claim that the book "is an indictment of George W. Bush of the sort that has become commonplace on the Left in the last few years," the reason I wrote the book is precisely because the issues it discusses have been largely (and inexcusably) ignored in our national political discussions.

Over the last five years, our country has been gradually though incessantly changing in fundamental and radical ways. The things we see and hear our government doing are squarely at odds with how we perceive of ourselves as a nation and the values which Americans, by definition, universally embrace. We have watched while this administration imprisoned U.S. citizens on U.S. soil and claimed the right to keep them there indefinitely with no trial, no charges and no access to lawyers; routinely used torture as an interrogation tool; created secret gulags in former Soviet Eastern European prisons in order to detain people beyond the reach of the law or monitoring; and eavesdropped on American citizens, on U.S. soil, without warrants or oversight of any kind in patent violation of a 28-year-old law which makes warrantless eavesdropping on Americans a criminal offense.

Those scandals have received their fair share of attention, but this critical point has not: all of those scandals stem from the fact that we have a president who, expressly and out in the open, claims that he has the power to act in the broadly defined area of national security (which includes measures taken against American citizens on U.S. soil) without any "interference" from anyone--including Congress, the courts, and even the law. In sum, we are radically changing our system of government, and, in the process, have transformed ourselves from a country that, for decades, was widely respected as a restrained and principled superpower into an amoral, highly militaristic and aggressive state which is widely feared and despised.
In other words, he doesn't do garden-variety Bush-bashing; he's doing a systematic unpacking of the worst offenses of the administration.

Yesterday, for example, Glenn pointed us to this Boston Globe article:
President Bush has quietly claimed the authority to disobey more than 750 laws enacted since he took office, asserting that he has the power to set aside any statute passed by Congress when it conflicts with his interpretation of the Constitution.

Among the laws Bush said he can ignore are military rules and regulations, affirmative-action provisions, requirements that Congress be told about immigration services problems, ''whistle-blower" protections for nuclear regulatory officials, and safeguards against political interference in federally funded research.

Legal scholars say the scope and aggression of Bush's assertions that he can bypass laws represent a concerted effort to expand his power at the expense of Congress, upsetting the balance between the branches of government. The Constitution is clear in assigning to Congress the power to write the laws and to the president a duty ''to take care that the laws be faithfully executed." Bush, however, has repeatedly declared that he does not need to ''execute" a law he believes is unconstitutional.

Former administration officials contend that just because Bush reserves the right to disobey a law does not mean he is not enforcing it: In many cases, he is simply asserting his belief that a certain requirement encroaches on presidential power.

But with the disclosure of Bush's domestic spying program, in which he ignored a law requiring warrants to tap the phones of Americans, many legal specialists say Bush is hardly reluctant to bypass laws he believes he has the constitutional authority to override.
Other presidents have done the same thing, of course, but, as Kevin Drum points out, not to the scale Bush has. Bush--with a Republican Congress passing the laws, mind you--is averaging more per year than Bill Clinton--also with mostly a Republican Congress--did in his entire term. Glenn correctly comments, "That is why the President has never bothered to veto a law--why bother to veto laws when you have the power to violate them at will?"

I know that among my readers, some of the conservatives have already given up on Bush. For those who haven't, though, I really, really wonder how you can hang on with someone who has such an utter and irrefutable disdain for the law. And how 32% of the rest of the country can be there with you.

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