29 August 2006

Power to the State?

Bush apparently still has enough supporters that people aren't particularly outraged by his decision to indefinitely imprison even American citizens without the need to formally charge them with a crime, his self-declared ability to tap phone lines of anyone without court authorization, or even his self-proclaimed ability to simply state that certain laws passed by congress don't apply to him. What it means to accept his proclamation of such powers (a proclamation supported nowhere in the Constitution that he swore to uphold) is to accept that we have an elected king. That is, Bush is able to seize and hold any citizen for any length of time. He's able to get information on anyone for any purpose, basically allowing no one privacy to formulate any kind of thought or organization. And he can exempt himself from legislation at will.

So, let's suppose that none of this disturbs you. You need to think about his. Would you want Bill or Hillary Clinton to have the same powers? What about Pat Buchanan or Ralph Nader? What if we had another terrorist attack from religious extremists and the vote fragmented, leaving a religious extremist with the Presidency? Or what if we have a few more Katrina’s and an environmental extremist is elected President? The question isn't just whether it disturbs you that Bush has these kinds of powers. The question is whether you want anyone who may end up in office to enjoy such broad powers.

If you answer yes to that, yes you would be satisfied to see any prospective president have this kind of power, then you needn't live here to enjoy the "security" such executive power confers. Saudi Arabia or Burma offers such executive power under the guise of security and the only thing particularly secure in such an arrangement is their grip on the executive branch.

Putting aside the fact that the war on terror isn't even a real war (and is instead a metaphor akin to the war on drugs or poverty), Bush granting himself these powers during "wartime" is like declaring that these powers will expire only when the poor, the addicted, or the violent have left us. We are more likely to find ourselves without rights than absent such company as that.

The United States has partly thrived because of good government, but its success has probably had more to do with its distrust of government and its insistence on checks and balances than reliance upon the magnanimity of any one president.

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