Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Berg That Sank the Ship of State

First El Presidente says he won't confirm or deny that the conversations of hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of American citizens have been eavesdropped on without warrants. Then yesterday he says hell yes, because I can do what I want on my way to protecting the American public (that all-purpose excuse!) in the War on Terror.

Does this explain, incidentally, why he suddenly caved in to Sen. John McCain on allowing language into the defense appropriations bill that outlaws torture? You pass any law you like, he says in effect to McCain, and I'll still do what I think is right. Because I'm above your law.

The people telling him that it's perfectly all right to conduct warrantless searches on the communications of Americans in this country also told him that he had the power to suspend the Geneva Conventions on prisoners and then suspend those prisoners over hell fire ... to extract information from them. Harriet Myers had a hand in that twisted reasoning. And I really want to know how many Democratic congresspersons were "briefed" and why they've remained so meekly silent for so long ... Sen. Rockefeller of West Virginia, particularly.

If this revelation about warrantless snooping on American citizens isn't the merest tip of an ice berg that is busily ripping the sheet iron off our constitutional checks and balances, then I'll be pleasantly surprised. They've done other stuff outside the law, you can bet on it. You think someone this addicted to limitless power just stops cold turkey after a little e-mail and phone-call snooping?

Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina was very strong on this issue on "Face the Nation" this morning. I demand to know how the president thinks he can break the law like this, he essentially said. We are a nation of laws, not a nation of "outcomes," he said in response to the president's address yesterday claiming he could do what he's done for the "outcome" of protecting the American public (uh-oh) from terrorists (or from giant meal worms from outer space).

George Will also could find no justification on ABC, linking the president's "over-reaching" to an ancient history about the fear of too much executive power.

Meanwhile, Fox News took up the administration's line that Mr. Bush had every right to do what he did to protect the American people (oh shut up) and that Democrats obviously want the terrorists to succeed (and incidentally hate Christmas too!).

FOOTNOTE ON "THREE DAYS OF THE CONDOR": We had occasion to see again the 1975 Robert Redford hit film. He plays a CIA analyst whose "section" operation of book readers gets completely wiped out for mysterious reasons. Turns out he's stumbled on a secret plan to invade the Middle East for control of oil. The CIA must keep this plan secret at all costs. To save himself in the end, the Robert Redford character tells the whole story to the New York Times. We're left hanging at the end. Redford's sinister CIA boss (played by Cliff Robertson in a mustache) says the Times will never publish the truth. The movie ends with the Redford character saying, Well, we'll see. Indeed. If that film were made today, guess he'd be waiting a full year before the Times decided to clue in the people about how this constitutional Republic is being subverted by an out-of-control and unaccountable executive ... to obtain oil in the Middle East.

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