Saturday :: Jul 12, 2008

Hollowing Out the Constitution


by Mary

Andrew J. Bacevich reviewed Jane Mayer's new book, Collateral Damage The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals, in the Washington Post. The collateral damage that Mayer writes about is our Constitution and our Democracy, victims of George Bush's war on terror.

Although Mayer does not dwell on this historical context, her account suggests implicitly that the present period differs in at least one crucial respect. Whereas the earlier departures from the rule of law represented momentary if egregious lapses in democratic practice, the abuses orchestrated from within the Bush administration suggest that democracy itself is fast becoming something of a sham. From Mayer, we learn that in George W. Bush's Washington, the decisions that matter are made in secret by a handful of presidential appointees committed to the proposition that nothing should inhibit the exercise of executive power. The Congress, the judiciary, the bureaucracy, the "interagency process" -- all of these constitute impediments that threaten to constrain the president. In a national security crisis, constraint is intolerable. Much the same applies to the media and, by extension, to the American people: The public's right to know extends no further than whatever the White House wishes to make known.

This week the Democratic Congress once more enabled Bush to continue to undermine our Constitution and blessed his lawlessness. They have guaranteed that we will only know what the White House wants us to know.

My prayer that this country could turn around with better leadership was badly damaged by the rancid caving-in on FISA. One thing I do want to note is Obama did keep one small part of his promise to the country in regards to restoring the rule of law. Before his sellout on FISA he said this:

This Administration has put forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand. When I am president, there will be no more illegal wire-tapping of American citizens; no more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime; no more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war. Our Constitution works, and so does the FISA court.

He's right. Now it is no longer illegal to spy on Americans.

Bush won an enormous victory this week. Our institutions and our expectation that our elected representatives would stand up for the Constitution have collapsed. If you can't trust the Democratic leadership to get this issue right, how can we ever hope they will be able to resolve some of the other catastrophes heading our way?

Mary :: 4:58 PM :: Comments (16) :: Digg It!