Monday, January 16, 2006
Thank you, Al Gore: Bush Broke the Law
I am so very moved by Al Gore's efforts today to explain why America is in Constitutional Crisis.
His speech hit every issue over which many of us are horrified and still trying to make sense of the indefensible and senseless - from jailing Americans without benefit of charges, to torture, extraordinary rendition, spying -- all symptoms and signs of the President's total disregard for the rule of law in America.
Gore gets it. Thank God. Because the media, nearly all Republicans (save a few, like Bob Barr) and most Democratic leaders won't even discuss it.
We are a country bound to the rule of law, not the rule of men.
One important piece of Gore's speech, below. You can read the full text, here.
The President has also claimed that he has the authority to kidnap individuals in foreign countries and deliver them for imprisonment and interrogation on our behalf by autocratic regimes in nations that are infamous for the cruelty of their techniques for torture.
Some of our traditional allies have been shocked by these new practices on the part of our nation. The British Ambassador to Uzbekistan - one of those nations with the worst reputations for torture in its prisons - registered a complaint to his home office about the senselessness and cruelty of the new U.S. practice: "This material is useless - we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful."
Can it be true that any president really has such powers under our Constitution? If the answer is "yes" then under the theory by which these acts are committed, are there any acts that can on their face be prohibited? If the President has the inherent authority to eavesdrop, imprison citizens on his own declaration, kidnap and torture, then what can't he do?
The Dean of Yale Law School, Harold Koh, said after analyzing the Executive Branch's claims of these previously unrecognized powers: "If the President has commander-in-chief power to commit torture, he has the power to commit genocide, to sanction slavery, to promote apartheid, to license summary execution."
The fact that our normal safeguards have thus far failed to contain this unprecedented expansion of executive power is deeply troubling. This failure is due in part to the fact that the Executive Branch has followed a determined strategy of obfuscating, delaying, withholding information, appearing to yield but then refusing to do so and dissembling in order to frustrate the efforts of the legislative and judicial branches to restore our constitutional balance.
For example, after appearing to support legislation sponsored by John McCain to stop the continuation of torture, the President declared in the act of signing the bill that he reserved the right not to comply with it.
And here we all sit, willing architects of our own downfall, happily pretending none of this is new, none of it matters, and "everything's gonna be alright."
Unless we halt the President's unbridled lawlessness, it's going to get worse. A whole lot worse.
"I call upon Democratic and Republican members of Congress today to uphold your oath of office and defend the Constitution. Stop going along to get along. Start acting like the independent and co-equal branch of government you're supposed to be.
But there is yet another Constitutional player whose pulse must be taken and whose role must be examined in order to understand the dangerous imbalance that has emerged with the efforts by the Executive Branch to dominate our constitutional system.
We the people are-collectively-still the key to the survival of America's democracy. We-as Lincoln put it, "[e]ven we here"-must examine our own role as citizens in allowing and not preventing the shocking decay and degradation of our democracy.
Thomas Jefferson said: "An informed citizenry is the only true repository of the public will."
The only way to stop it is to stand up. Now. Talk to friends, to neighbors. Explain why warrantless spying is wrong. Why torture in our name is a horrible (and failing) practice. Why it's wrong to imprison anyone without benefit of formal charges. Why we don't have to trade liberty for security.
Grab your Sharpie and write "IMPEACH" in big bold letters on every bit of legal currency in your wallet. Do it every single day. Or Freeway Blog -- it's a cheap and easy way to get the word out.
Each generation has a call to action that cannot be ignored. Those who fought and died for American liberty had theirs; to honor their sacrifice and keep America a nation of laws, this is ours.
Our Founding Fathers understood. So did Martin Luther King, who we celebrate today. So does Al Gore. So do I. And so do you.