Sunday, July 29, 2007

Digby Channels Thomas Paine

But where says some is the king of America? I'll tell you Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal of Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America the law is king. For as in absolute governments the king is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other. But lest any ill use should afterwards arise, let the crown at the conclusion of the ceremony be demolished, and scattered among the people whose right it is.

Source: Common Sense, by Thomas Paine, printed by W. and T. Bradford, Philadelphia, 1791.

Digby at Hullabaloo has a post up on the implications of the imperial presidency for the next election, and ends it with a clarion call to the citizens of this country to repudiate the scoundrels who have enabled it.

....The founders never counted on politicians "doing the right thing." Profiles in courage are always in short supply and no government can depend upon good intentions. But they did assume that they would, at least, want to preserve their own careers and constitutional prerogatives. The modern Republicans are so committed to their party that they will follow their 28% president over the cliff, and that is a mindset we haven't seen since the civil war.

GOP power politics have exposed some weaknesses in our constitutional framework: as long as there are 34 Senators willing to back the president no matter what, short of a coup, he can pretty much do anything he wants until the next election. That's always been true, but nobody ever wanted to push it before. Cooler heads have generally known that balance of powers issues should be left somewhat vague and subject to political compromise so you don't get a permanent imbalance you later regret. (The independent counsel law was arguably one of those unanticipated consequences.)

.....People wonder why they would give so much power to the president since a Democrat could hold the office someday. I think they know the Democratic party is just not as temperamentally amenable to authoritarianism. They know that Democrats will, in the end, act out of their own self interest rather than out of partisanship since they don't have the kind of discipline or homogeneous constituency the Republicans have. (Bill Clinton was saved by the people, not the Democratic congress who were prepared to jump ship at the first sign of a decay in public support. Luckily for him, the more the Republicans pushed the more the public stood behind him.) These Republicans are completely unresponsive to anything but party loyalty and their hardcore base.

Finally, ongoing GOP influence in the media and the elite establishment means they can manipulate the narratives, which after this reign of terror, if the Dems win, will undoubtedly be a passionate reverence for absolute government transparency and accountability, federalism, strict division of power and the letter of the constitution. And they count on the public forgetting all about their crimes by the time they run on the "honor and integrity" ticket a couple of years from now.

.....My point is that in a democracy these issues are ultimately and always questions for the people. If we don't want an imperial president, we are going to have to make sure that when they do this stuff they lose their power, not at the hands of politicians of the opposing party but at our hands, the citizens of this country.

In his essay last year, Lewis Lapham of Harper's Weekly noted that in a parliamentary political system, Bush would have been booted long ago by a vote of no confidence and asked if Republicans would do the right thing.

But in the news media [the American electorate] find no strong voice of dissent, in the Democratic Party no concerted effort to form a coherent opposition. Which places the work of protecting the country's freedoms where it should be placed -- with the Congress, more specifically with the Republican members of Congress. What else is it that voters expect the Congress to do if not to look out for their rights as citizens of the United States? So the choice presented to the Republican members on the Judiciary Committee investigating the President's use of electronic surveillance comes down to a matter of deciding whether they will serve their country or their party.

I don't envy them the decision; the rewards offered by the party (patronage, campaign contributions, a fat retirement on the payroll of a K Street lobbying firm) clearly outweigh those available from the country-- congratulatory editorials in obscure newspapers, malicious gossip circulated by Focus on the Family and Fox News, an outpouring of letters and emails from grateful citizens not in positions to do anybody any favors.

Republicans didn't do their duty when they held the reins of Congress, and now they are blocking the ability of Democrats to hold anyone accountable. The members of Congress who continue to obstruct the will of the people - by refusing to discuss an end to the war in Iraq; by continuing to allow Gonzales to maintain his post at the Justice Department; by defending a government that flouts the law of the land when wiretapping its own citizens without a warrant; by refusing to take whatever steps are necessary to repudiate a presidency whose monarchical power grab has plunged us into a constitutional crisis - these supporters of the imperial presidency are the Tories of our time. Mistaking loyalty for patriotism, they fiercely defend the Bush regime at all costs. They will continue to do so until the tables are turned and Democrats are in the White House, at which time they will wrap themselves in the flag and decry the flagrant abuses of its current occupants.

Digby is right. The election in 2008 will be a watershed for our country. Either we exercise our power and vote out the legislators who have enabled the imperial presidency, or we live forever with the consequences.

No comments: