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On Further Reflection…


(Photo by Reuters/Corbis via Boston Globe)

Well, this is a fine "how do you do" this morning:  (via Glenn)

Democrats have allowed Republicans to fight among themselves over the [FISA and Guantanamo] issues, and appear willing to allow the issues to come to a vote rather than risk charges of political obstructionism in an election season . . . .

The administration had also faced resistance over the N.S.A. wiretapping program. The Democrats had bottled up the administration’s proposals, saying Congress was being forced to legislate “in the dark” about a secret program that few members had been briefed on. They have repeatedly used procedural maneuvers to block the proposals from coming to a vote in the Judiciary Committee, drawing accusations of obstructionism from Republicans.

But Democrats, who appeared to realize the risk of being accused of thwarting debate on national security matters, did not stand in the way of the committee vote on Wednesday.

I don’t know about you guys, but I have had it with the "sit on our hands" approach to democracy. How about this, just as a fun little experiment — how about we get up off of our butts and DO THE RIGHT THING FOR THE CONSTITUTION. (Sorry about the shouting. I’m a bit miffed.)

We have done a lot of posts on the FISA issue and the importance of living up to our responsibility to safeguard our Constitution — and the reasons that we were set up to be a nation of laws.  There is a good reason for all the posts.  It is important.  And it is our legacy to future generations that we honor the principles on which our nation was founded. 

That includes not setting the President up as a king — you know, the whole reason we fought the Revolutionary War in the first place, tyranny and imposition of will without adequate representation and all that.  (Doesn’t anyone in public office read history or political philosophy?)

What it requires is that we safeguard these rights every single day.  Al Gore had it absolutely on the money in his speech back in January, and I want to re-post a segment of it here for everyone:

A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. Indeed, they recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution – our system of checks and balances – was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law. As John Adams said: "The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men."

An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution – an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free. In the words of James Madison, "the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

Thomas Paine, whose pamphlet, "On Common Sense" ignited the American Revolution, succinctly described America’s alternative. Here, he said, we intended to make certain that "the law is king."

Vigilant adherence to the rule of law strengthens our democracy and strengthens America. It ensures that those who govern us operate within our constitutional structure, which means that our democratic institutions play their indispensable role in shaping policy and determining the direction of our nation. It means that the people of this nation ultimately determine its course and not executive officials operating in secret without constraint.

The rule of law makes us stronger by ensuring that decisions will be tested, studied, reviewed and examined through the processes of government that are designed to improve policy. And the knowledge that they will be reviewed prevents over-reaching and checks the accretion of power.

Acting as a rubber stamp for Presidential power grabs is NOT what was intended by the Founders. What was intended was that members of Congress would act as a check and balance on Presidential overreach, just as the Presidential veto power was to be the balancing test for Congressional overstepping. And the power of the judiciary to overrule laws and Presidential action on Constitutional grounds was the check on both with regard to collusion between the other two branches.

I hope that Glenn is correct, and that Democrats allowed the Specter bill through the Judiciary Committee in some deal that was cut to also allow the Feinstein/Specter bill through to the floor.  Between the two, the Feinstein/Specter bill is far superior — and ought to be the focus of our efforts going forward.  The Specter bill is odious, to say the least, and must be stopped — the President of the United States is not to be given unfettered power, with no accountability, and he certainly should not be handed this sort of power lightly.  His attempt to become a "unilateral executive" must be opposed, bot just for this presidency, but for all the generations to follow.

I’ll have more on this in a bit, as I do a bit of digging and figure out what action would be helpful.  In the meantime, try calling your Senators and voicing your objections to the Specter bill and your support for the Feinstein/Specter alternative.  You can call via the Capitol switcboard at 888-355-3588 or find specific Senator office information here.

The bottom line:  do you trust George Bush?  My answer:  no.

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com