November 15, 2004

something wicked this way comes

The Attorney General’s remarks last week are a fitting departing flourish, if indeed he is done flourishing, for the man who labeled dissenters such as myself as traitors. The timing of the remarks, coming after the administration’s rather outrageous claim of a mandate to pursue its narrow partisan agenda, is certainly no accident. My sense is that the Shrub Cabal senses blood in the water and it is eager to kill off its prey quickly before perceived election momentum fades and mid-term election preoccupation begins.

In the immediate aftermath of this election, which was obviously a landslide in the altered reality of this administration, the tone is already increasingly patrician and condescending. You can hear the rhetorical finger-wags often in the Attorney General’s remarks, such as when he said:

The danger I see here is that intrusive judicial oversight and second-guessing of presidential determinations in these critical areas can put at risk the very security of our nation in a time of war.


But the record of this administration makes it hard to imagine what exactly this gang might consider to not be a “critical area”. I sense no limits whatsoever on the subject matter that the administration is willing to claim as its patriotic domain. Apparently, if Karl Rove says it, then it’s so.

Truly, there is nothing genuinely new in these recent remarks. At every turn we have heard the administration’s whines about having to do their jobs within the quaint limits of the Constitution—which they only incidentally swore to uphold and defend. In the face of such egregious over-reaching for executive power, the calls for restraint by the dissent have been muted at best. Neo-cons can take great comfort in knowing that at the present rate of civil liberty legislative annulment, they will not need to whine for long: soon there will be precious little of the Constitution remaining to defend.

The context of the Attorney General’s remarks are instructive if you are not aware. The nation’s Top Attorney was obviously distressed by a recent US District Court ruling that halted the military trial of a man accused of being Osama Bin Laden’s driver and who is one among many that the administration has argued is not subject to the rules of the Geneva Convention. The Geneva Convention is of course famous as an effort between civilized nations to attempt to bring some protection to the human rights of prisoners of war.

And the Geneva Convention is of course equally famous for being ignored by administrations headed by Hitler, Stalin, Tojo and now Bush.

The administration has of course articulated a legal defense to repudiating the Geneva Convention—this administration, like its predecessor, is very good at legal defenses. That Al Queda is not a “state” and does not play fair seems to be about as far as the administration’s argument goes however. Depressingly lost on these self-styled patriots is the perspective that I think most of us learned as children. A patriotic perspective that taught that America is better than such practices and did the right thing even when it wasn’t fair. A perspective that understood that legal defenses to moral offenses are not very compelling whether in the Courts of Nürnberg or the Courts of Public Opinion.

Fortunately our Attorney General has announced his resignation; unfortunately the nominee for his replacement has been named as well: Alberto Gonzales. The same Alberto Gonzales that advised that the Geneva Convention was “quaint” and that by repudiating the Geneva Convention, the administration would have a defense against future accusations of war crimes. The same Alberto Gonzales that vigorously advocated a line of thought that lead to the Abu Ghraib prison torture scandal.

I think the nickname “Sleazy Gonzales” will fit pretty well.

It is always dangerous to think things can’t get any worse. Certainly, in the case of our current Attorney General one might be tempted to think so, but Gonzales may well force some to rethink that conclusion.

But, there is little need to rethink your conclusion on the present Attorney General because he has remained regrettably consistent throughout his tenure. He further admonished us last week to get a firmer understanding of how our legal system works when he said:


Courts are not equipped to execute the law. They are not accountable to the people.


I must assume that since our Top Lawyer went to law school, he was offering this as instruction to the unwashed masses and not as an expression of a recently acquired personal understanding. It is, after all, fundamental to our system of government that the courts be a check on the power of the legislature and executive that is only accountable to the law itself. This is yet another instance where an administration official floats out statements that are objectively true, but which are intended to imply various meanings which are manifestly false. In this case, the implication is that the courts not being directly accountable to the people is somehow bad for America.

The obvious and unnerving irony of these remarks is that the Attorney General seems to feel that checks and balances are only required on the powers of the legislature and judiciary. This can be seen in the fact that any attempt to question the administration, or to check its abuses of power, is met with accusations of duplicity or ignorance. More unnerving still is the unwillingness of the media and political opposition to call the twisted rhetoric of this administration exactly that.

Technically, I suppose, the courts are not accountable to the people. But then again, to the extent that the past election was a referendum on the anti-American agenda of this administration, apparently neither is the Attorney general.

19 Comments:

Blogger David R said...

And Colin Powell resigned today, having concluded no doubt that there are no parts of his soul left to sell to a second Bush administration.

The resignation of Ashcroft, and his replacement with Gonzales, will remove a polarizing figure from the administration. Democrats in Congress, now completely cowed, will have little stomach for seriously objecting to the elevation of Mr. Gonzales. Any who do have the temerity to question his expansive views on torture and unlimited presidential power will likely be tarred with an "anti-latino" bias.

So now we will have a more intelligent, less polarizing, better looking figure as AG to pursue, with more panache and in an eminently more "reasonable" fashion, the disastrous policies that have lead to the undermining of our Constitutional rights and moral standing in the world, as you have described. Now is the start of Bush, round 2. Let the American-people-getting-what-they-deserve begin!

5:33 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

David,

"Now is the start of Bush, round 2. Let the American-people-getting-what-they-deserve begin!"

Yep. IMO, the Dems should let these guys hang themselves other than approving judges, I feel a great fundamentalist overreach coming on. I only make the exception on judges because they are lifetime appointments. Watch for some interesting fireworks on the judge appointment front. Frist was all over the Sunday morning talk shows threatening the nuclear (or I guess nucular in this admin :) option to prevent Dem filibusters. The nuclear option involves changing the Senate rules to avoid the filibuster. My guess is they will do this with the intent of putting 3 to 4 pro-lifers on the Supreme court during this administration. If the nuclear option happens, it will be very interesting to watch how the Dems play it. They call it nuclear, because everyone figures the minority party will lock down the senate from getting anythine else done (the required 60 votes would not happen for Bush's other plans... I guess unless they went nuclear on everything :). If all of this plays out, I think it's time to call the Reps bluff. I think Reid should get up and say, ok Reps... knock yourself out... go make abortion criminal for moms, wives and sisters on your watch. The Reps have been winning elections on the abortion issue ... so put up or shut up... you got control, show us the America you want.

Guess this rant crept back into the previous blog topic... that's what happens when Curm stirs it up.

btw, regarding Gonzales replacing Ashcroft... does that mean instead of covering up naked statues we will now be hanging illegal combatants by the genitals from the statues... i.e. quaint-free hangings?

10:26 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

Judging by the limited response to this topic, I suppose that not so many are as riled as DavidR, CG and myself.

Ah well.

11:11 AM  
Blogger Andrew Dunlap said...

A latino AG, a black SOS, trump trump. I agree that it will be hard to block the confirmations of these two. Their credentials are impressive. My philosophy is to let the pres get his own people in. As far as a power play in the senate, what goes around comes around. I see that the house wants to change the rules to allow Tom DeLay to remain, if by some chance he gets convicted. Since we must endure another 4 yrs of Bush, lets go all the way. Let his policies be enacted. Let the american people see the supreme court turn into a group of 9 politicians in robes who want to rule our lives. Scourging can be good. I want the issue of abortion to be settled so that the republicans can stop asking for my vote to protect moral issues. And while we're at it, let's amend that constitution to ban gay marriage, flag burning and abortion. Did I miss anything?

10:57 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

You go Andrew... I concur. Turn them lose at let them show the public what they voted for. If that's what the public wants in the end, so be it. Heck, if they really want to do this right they should put a Dobson or two in cabient positions. Oh, replace Ashcroft with Dobson or Robertson... that would have been perfect.

11:25 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

Andrew,

You missed the most important one! The constitutional cap on taxes for the wealthy (10% of income would probably work).

On Senate confirmations. I agree that the role of “advise and consent” is abused these days. I may not like a certain appointment, but the Constitution did not set out that they could veto appointments for political reasons. To me, unless there is a fitness for office issue, there Constitutional duty is to approve the nominees.

12:41 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Tony,

"To me, unless there is a fitness for office issue, there Constitutional duty is to approve the nominees."

I'm not sure I agree with that. For example, does the Ashcroft's of the world serve the public or the president? I think there is a difference between the president's staff and cabinet positions. I heard someone on a cable channel saying presidents prefer a close confidant in the AG position. Of course... think Clinton and special prosecutors.

And I for sure don't agree when it comes to judges.

Note: the above was in reference to how I think the process should work. Given the current circumstances, as I said previously, I would give this prez and this GOP EVERYTHING they wanted and suggest a Dobson or two. Now that would be a hoot... Senator Harry Reid suggesting Dobson, Falwell and Robertson to the president on national TV for key admin positions. Those guys believe they were key in getting the president elected... I think it's only fair the president pays up. If you bluff on a pair of 2's, you should have to show your cards. :)

1:05 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

CG,

You are always free to disagree of course. The Constitutional language is “advise and consent”. You or I might not like that, but that is the way the law is. What started happening back with Clarence Thomas, and which has accelerated, is a perversion of a process that served us well for 200 years. This is just another way in which we have ceased to be a nation of laws and become a nation of politics and majority rule.

Funny thing about the law is though, it doesn’t matter whether we agree or not. Want to see a list of laws I don’t agree with?

1:41 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Tony,

con·sent ( P ) Pronunciation Key (kn-snt)
intr.v. con·sent·ed, con·sent·ing, con·sents
To give assent, as to the proposal of another; agree. See Synonyms at assent.
Archaic. To be of the same mind or opinion.

n.
Acceptance or approval of what is planned or done by another; acquiescence. See Synonyms at permission.
Agreement as to opinion or a course of action: She was chosen by common consent to speak for the group.
Not sure what you are so SURE about. If the Senate was suppose to roll over, why put them in the loop? So much gray in the world. :)

btw... Advise to me would mean the president discussing nominations with the Senate BEFORE nomination.

3:11 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

CG,

I don’t have a bunch of info to prove my point to you because googling only turned up this:

http://www.claremont.org/projects/jurisprudence/020602eastman_sandefur.html

Now that link I do think summed up the law pretty well in the first part, but I suspect since the balance of the document demonstrates a right lean, you won’t be satisfied. The fact of the matter is that through out our history there was very little resistance to Presidential nominations. It has only been politicized in recent years.

I agree with the founder’s intention of having the nominations not be a political process. Of course, because of the abortion topic, the process has gotten totally screwed up and rather than appointing the best jurists, we appoint the one that will be the least confirmation hassle.

Granted, this is about par for a country in which the best we can come up with for as potential potentates is Shrub and Kerry.

3:34 PM  
Blogger David R said...

I wish I could comfort myself with the theory that the right-wing will overreach and cause a huge pendulum swing in the next election. Unfortunately, that theory requires some faith in the American public. It requires some belief that the public will be aware of the overreach, or is capable of remembering anything that happened one week ago, or has the intelligence to distinguish truth from lies, or fact from opinion.

I see no evidence that the American electorate is capable of any of these things. By re-electing a president who is manifestly unfit for office, the public has in my view proven itself to be unfit for the task of self governance. I see no reason to expect them to be any more intelligent four years from now.

7:31 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

David,

By re-electing a president who is manifestly unfit for office, the public has in my view proven itself to be unfit for the task of self governance. I see no reason to expect them to be any more intelligent four years from now.David, I agree with you totally. I'm just humoring myself with the overreach hope to avoid reality. We are toast... make the best of it. Play your music, drink some good beer, give Curm sh*t for not having an internet connection at home :).

CG

8:02 PM  
Blogger Andrew Dunlap said...

yeah, what's up with the no internet connection at home? are you that deep into the woods? Just kidding. I wish i didn't have one sometimes.

10:20 AM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

Andrew,

HAHAHA...well, I am trying to live as woodsey as I can. We are thinking about taking out the heater and just going with the fireplace this winter.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Andrew Dunlap said...

not a bad idea considering what we'll all have to pay for heat this winter. I wonder how the Bush doctrine is going to apply to the Iran situation. Sec. powell says that Iran is trying to rig nukes on a missle. How fortunate for them, they can take us and Iraq out in one strike. Nothing that I'm hoping for. The problem is how are we to verify this, since powell's credibility was seriously damaged over Iraq. My grandma told me the story about the boy who cried wolf a dozen times.

1:37 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

Andrew,

Yeah, I saw the article on Iranian nukes too. There is little doubt they have the money to acquire the nuclear weapons, so I think we need to assume that they have nuclear tipped missiles or will in the very near term.

The real kick in the buttocks is that this approaching danger has been evident for a very long time. Rather than dealing with real risks like Iran and North Korea, the administration has pursued its own agenda. The likelihood is that in the near term, Iran would use such weapons as a deterrent against a Shrub induced invasion, but the longer term implications are nothing less than the stuff of the book of Revelation. That this administration took on Saddam instead is enough to make me wonder seriously about end times scenarios.

Regardless, I think we will look back at the failure to address the nukes in the Mid-east to be one of the great mistakes of our era.

2:01 PM  
Blogger Common Good said...

There was a quote in a movie (maybe Hunt for Red October) where one of a submarine's crew tells his commander "you arrogant bastard, you have killed us all"... right before there sub blew up. Bush reminds me of that sub Commander.

Until the nukes hit, let me raise a couple more appointment questions with Curm.

The Bush admin is frothing at the bit because only 93% of his judge nominations were confirmed (something like 201 out of 216). They cry filibuster. During the Clinton administration, the GOP prevented 60 judges from ever coming to the floor because they had control of the Senate. So my first question is, do you see much of a difference between the two methods of blocking judges... apparently both are legal under our system.

Second point/question: Let's suppose Curm is a sentator on the GOP side, and the GOP only has 45 senators... The Dems control the Senate with 55. Also imagine there is a Democrat president, and he is busy nominating the most pro-choice Judges he can find. Now you... Mr. Curm the Senator knows the Democrat Senators will vote 100% in block to send them through. You have a choice, honor process and put lifetime appointments in the Supreme Court and Federal Courts by allowing a vote, or you can filibuster. You can tell me what you think you would do, but I know you pretty well, particularly the abortion topic you just spend a blog on. Once again, I am challenging your black and white world with a little bit of gray.

CG

4:12 PM  
Blogger Tony Plank said...

CG,

Your attempts to greyify my world are pretty futile you must realize. And I hope it doesn’t shock you to learn that yes, I have thought about that very issue: If I were a Senator, I would ratify a nomination as long as there wasn’t evidence of incompetence or misconduct. Period.

Here is the black and white principal behind this. If you believe in our system of laws as being on the balance the best way to achieve Liberty, then as individuals we must conform to that legal system. If you do not like the law, work on getting it changed through the legal processes we have. This is at the heart of the idea of a “nation of laws”-that the rule of law is something you can take to the bank. If it is not so, the whole system breaks down. This is why I was so vehement in supporting the Clinton impeachment.

And this is why I am so dismissive of politics. Politics muddies the underlying principals and makes us do and say stupid things. If I were in elected office, I would work very hard to change the laws in ways that would eliminate abortion. But, I would not corrupt the legal process to achieve a particular end no matter how noble that end might be. Because if you warp the system in the process, everyone is ultimately disserved.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Common Good said...

Curm,

That's why I'm here... to see your black and white and raise you some gray. :)

11:09 AM  

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