Saturday, October 27, 2007

"Should we wander [from the essential principles of our government] in moments of error or alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety."

Thomas Jefferson succeeding John Adams and repealing the Alien and Sedition Acts.
I am continuously proclaiming the virtues of Bill Moyers. Tonight's interview with two scholars, Justice Charles Fried and Attorney Frederick Swartz, regarding the overextension of the power of the presidency is no exception. Justice Fried, a staunch Republican and former Solicitor General under Reagan, argued for the sometimes acquiescence to wide use of presidential power -- even if illegal -- in certain instances while Attorney Swartz argued for executive restraint. Naturally, I had some thoughts and sent them to PBS:


I do not think the usurpation of unbridled power that has been the hallmark of the Bush II administration is really about lofty ideals. I think it rather is really about entrenching the Republican party and its corporate allies within the power base for decades to come. How convenient for Cheney that 9/11 happened on his watch because it gave him the perfect rationale for the retention of unparalleled power which he has wanted since the Nixon impeachment hearings. What Cheney, Bush, et al did not, it seems to me, predict is the Iraq war going sour resulting in the takeover by Democrats of Congress and the possibility of a Democrat occupying the oval office in 2008. I am quite sure all their talk about the presidency having ultimate Constitutional power eclipsing the Legislative branch even if it means the president commits illegalities will go out the window when and if the Republican party is out of office. All of a sudden then they will talk about the Founders meaning for a balance of power and that the presidency is simply one branch among three. When it is politically expedient and they are in power they will advocate an ultra strong presidency. When they no longer have power they will scream for a more balanced approach. I believe Cheney/Bush opinion has NOTHING to do with ideals and everything to do with the maintenance of their power and the accumulation of great wealth that comes from its base at all costs.

Those of us who really do care about the security of this country while maintaining checks on those who would abuse power sometimes do not know what to believe. Will government's extensive data mining include only those who would possibly commit egregious horrendous acts against this country possibly killing thousands or even millions if they could or will government unnecessarily snoop even into an email from Professor Fried wasting precious time and taxpayer money? Worse, could government detain utterly innocent people, picking them up in the dead of night, and ship them off to places unknown? What if they came for someone like Professor Fried simply because someone somewhere in government did not like what he said or a criticism he levied.

I believe government power does not give up that power easily and, more often, extends its power even more. I also do not trust all of my fellow men. Does Justice Fried worry about the trustworthiness of all men in government? Conversely, does Mr. Swartz worry about a dirty bomb? If data mining and a little warrantless wiretapping could uncover a plot to detonate such a bomb would it be worth it even if it means the extension ad infinitum of the power of the presidency? Those are, it seems to me, the epic questions of our time which have yet to be sufficiently addressed.
I am continuously proclaiming the virtues of Bill Moyers. I am compelled to state yet again how absolutely marvelous his interviews are. Tonight's interview with Justice Charles Fried and Attorney Frederick Swartz regarding the overextension of the power of the presidency is no exception. Justice Fried argued for the sometimes acquiescence to wide use of presidential power while Attorney Swartz argued for executive restraint.

I do not think the usurpation of unbridled power that has been the hallmark of the Bush II administration is really about lofty ideals. I think it rather is really about entrenching the Republican party and its corporate allies within the power base for decades to come. How convenient for Cheney that 9/11 happened on his watch because it gave him the perfect rationale for the retention of unparalleled power which he has wanted since the Nixon impeachment hearings. What Cheney, Bush, et al did not, it seems to me, predict is the Iraq war going sour resulting in the takeover by Democrats of Congress and the possibility of a Democrat occupying the oval office in 2008. I am quite sure all their talk about the presidency having ultimate Constitutional power eclipsing the Legislative branch even if it means the president commits illegalities will go out the window when and if the Republican party is out of office. All of a sudden then they will talk about the Founders meaning for a balance of power and that the presidency is simply one branch among three. When it is politically expedient and they are in power they will advocate an ultra strong presidency. When they no longer have power they will scream for a more balanced approach. I believe Cheney/Bush opinion has NOTHING to do with ideals and everything to do with the maintenance of their power and the accumulation of great wealth that comes from its base at all costs.

Those of us who really do care about the security of this country while maintaining checks on those who would abuse power sometimes do not know what to believe. Will government's extensive data mining include only those who would possibly commit egregious horrendous acts against this country possibly killing thousands or even millions if they could or will government unnecessarily snoop even into an email from Professor Fried wasting precious time and taxpayer money? Worse, could government detain utterly innocent people, picking them up in the dead of night, and ship them off to places unknown? What if they came for someone like Professor Fried simply because someone somewhere in government did not like what he said or a criticism he levied.

I believe government power does not give up that power easily and, more often, extends its power even more. I also do not trust all of my fellow men. Does Justice Fried worry about the trustworthiness of all men in government? Conversely, does Mr. Swartz worry about a dirty bomb? If data mining and a little warrantless wiretapping could uncover a plot to detonate such a bomb would it be worth it even if it means the extension ad infinitum of the power of the presidency? Those are, it seems to me, the epic questions of our time which have yet to be sufficiently addressed.