Sunday, December 18, 2005

How Committed are we to the Rule of Law?

Once during the semester, one of my more ambitious students defended the United States against all other nations by arguing that we respected "the rule of law." He was wrong, of course, but I didn't interject. Another popular proclamation calls us, "a nation of laws, not of men," and while we may be a nation of lawsuits, this "nation of laws" rhetoric is once again being shown up for its emptiness this weekend. I don't just mean that the president doesn't respect the law, but that a seemingly large number of Americans doesn't care either.
Today, in Common Dreams, David Sirota compares Bush's defiance of law with Richard Nixon's and cites this David Frost interviewin which Nixon says that the president himself is the "dividing line" between legality and illegality. If we were a nation of law, surely the media would be writing about law-breaking. However, as both Sirota and Alexander Cockburn point out, the papers are doing nothing of the kind. The New York Times' shameful decision not to print the story a year ago once again confirms its lack of credibility as the "paper of record."
It's not just the media that is failing to do its job, it was also the Senate Intelligence committee members, who were briefed on the policy but did not oppose it. Nancy Pelosi, for example, says she "expressed strong concerns," but perhaps she thought publicizing a classified report of illegal government activites was more illegal than doing the spying?
Finally, to find the real lovers of "law n' order," I went to read "Free Republic," the best place to take the temperature of the right wing grassroots, and it does seem that they're coming up with the standard excuse for these activities. First, they argue, "the people that the NSA is spying on aren't innocent," and they also say, "b-b-b-but Clinton used the FBI to spy on American citizens too."
So there, they've confirmed it. We're a nation of men, not laws. It's OK to spy if you spy on the right people, and it's OK to spy if you're the right people. As long as "enlightened statesmen are at the helm" we can trust them to do whatever the hell they think is fit. Think I'm exaggerating?
"You're right," one freeper says in response to a liberal commenter who'd suggested that he would be up in arms if Clinton or Gore had endorsed spying on Americans. However, he said, that's because he trusts Bush with the "responsibility" of breaking the law, wouldn't trust Gore or Clinton.
Another I just have to quote at length:
Again, our enemy is not a nation, rather our enemy resides in many nations through out the world. The enemy is an idealogy based on extreme Islam. All terrorists are muslims. Islam is the one thing all terrorists have in common. So long as those being spyed on in America are muslims, or Americans doing a suspicious business with muslims, or having close suspect ties with known muslims, I don't have a problem with this since we are at war with muslims. However, if those being spyed on have no relations to Islam, I have a problem with these kinds of invasions of privacy. I find them anti American, anti freedom, and anti Constitution.
Problem is, how do we know? How do we find out? Do we simply take their word for it? Like most took the word of those marshals at Miami?
by takenoprisoner (It is an err of celestial proportions to sacrifice freedom for security)

This is Bush's base, and they don't understand democracy at all. Hell, I don't trust anybody to break the law that's written to protect my freedom from surveillance and whatnot, but, hey, call me a "left wing whack-job with a tinfoil hat." After all, I think there's some value to the constitution, even if I don't trust anybody to actually enforce it. As our Atty Gen. Alberto "Torquemada Gonzales puts it, that's "quaint."
As Cockburn, St. Clair and Sirota point out, the media's not helping folks get it. While you're frustrated and frothing, and wishing you had something to do with your pent up frustration, it's worth participating in this little mediamatters email letter campaign to MSNBC about Chris Matthews.

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