My Dogma Ate Your Principles

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I oppose impeaching President Bush and Vice President Cheney not as a matter of principle but of practicality. Both have more than made the case that they should be thrown out of office, but it is my belief that such proceedings would be enormously distracting and time consuming. History’s judgment will be harsh enough.

I opposed approving Michael Mukasey for attorney general not as a matter of practicality but of principle. Mukasey seems to be capable of beginning to repair the damage that Alberto Gonzalez wrought, but I believed that the Senate should have taken a stand against the Bush administration’s embrace of torture and rejected the nomination because of Mukasey’s own equivocating.

With a new poll showing that only 24 percent of Americans believe their country is on the right track and another poll showing that the U.S. is widely despised by people in the pivotal countries in the battle against the global Islamic jihad, when to take a stand and when to bail is not merely a philosophical abstraction.

It is a matter of whether the heart and soul of America can survive as we approach the end of the first decade of the new millennium.

Complicating — or rather obscuring — this dire state of affairs is lazy thinking. Many politicians, including even those appalled by the excesses of the last seven years, as well as mainstream media pundits and a heck of a lot of bloggers who should know better, are pretty much giving the White House a free pass because of the dopey notion that everything will be okey-dokey with a new president.

Well, if the 2008 election was held tomorrow, in all likelihood the winner would be either Hillary Clinton or Rudy Giuliani, and if anyone thinks that things suddenly would be better . . . then I’d like to have a puff of what they’re smoking.

As it is, we can look forward to another 12 months of gum-flapping in Washington, tut-tutting by the punditocracy and discombobulation in the blogosphere when what we need is a contemporary version of Paul Revere’s Ride.

Nowhere is this malaise more troubling than when it comes to civil liberties. Remember them?

When I read last week that a top U.S. intelligence official stated that it’s time for people to change their definition of privacy, the hair stood on my neck. But I apparently didn’t have much company judging from the underwhelming response to the Orwellian remarks of Donald Kerr, deputy director of national intelligence.

Kerr tacitly acknowledged that the Bush administration — with the eager acquiescence of Congress — has turned the rules of the game on their ear. He explained with a straight face that privacy now meant not that you and your private information would be free from government intrusion, but that the government would intrude but properly safeguard you and your private information.

Kerr’s comments came as Congress reconsiders the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act of 1978, which it hastily and dutifully changed last summer to allow Big Brother to eavesdrop on you and I without the bother of court permission so long as one end of the conversation was reasonably believed to be located outside the U.S. or something. Nobody is really sure.

Having been sold this utterly specious bill of goods — and you’d better believe that the more draconian aspects of FISA will survive the clammy grasp of Congress — the American people are again being told that the Founding Fathers had it wrong when they enshrined civil liberties and the rule of law in the Constitution.

I myself believe that it is time to draw the line. Okay?

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  • http://www.whyweworry.com Chris

    I find it terribly ironic that so-called big government liberals are the ones that are left to defend the country from the all-powerful hand of the government. I guess being for limited government only matters when your team isn’t in power.

    But I definitely have my doubts about whether or not liberals would give a damn if it were Bill Clinton chipping away at our personal liberty. Then again, liberals across the country are deeply unhappy with the current Congress, so maybe that’s a sign that there are convictions behind their views…

  • superdestroyer

    Do you really think that people who put nude pictures of themselves on Myspace are really concerned about privacy?

    Do you really think that people who blather on the cell phones in a crowded area are concerned about people listening to their phone calls?

    Do you really think that the RA’s are the University of Delware who were documenting people’s sexual identify really cared about privacy?

    Do you really think that the social engineers who work for the Seattle school system really care abour privacy or even about civil rights?

    I would guess that more people believe that the U.S. is on the wrong track because they cannot no longer go to the 7-11 because of all of the day laborers hanging around than because of torturing Muslims. Of course, a liberal would never believe that open borders and unlimited immigration or maybe the failure of the public school system is causing more people to believe that the U.S. is on the wrong track.

  • domajot

    I would really like to see some of the critics with principles put their money where their mouth is.

    Let’s say Mukasey was denied confirmation, and
    these folks would have their principles to keep them warm at tnight. In the meantime, one actng AG or another would be running The DOJ with only WH instructions as a guide. Bush said he would not nominate anyone else, and even if he did, that someone would not be an improvement over Mukasey. I doubt these same critics would be saying ‘good job, Congress[ as new scandals and dubious rise to the surface.

    Let’s say Congress does the bidding of these critics, cuts off funding and brings the troops home lickety split. When the repercussions rise to the surface and the Republicans are re-electoed to start a new war with Iran, would we hear a rousing cheer for Congress then?

    In treacherous times, with no perfect solutons availaable, I don’t recomment riding off with Don Quixote and his principles, tilting at windmills.As a nation, we’re picking our way through a mine field, I recoomend doing so carefully, steering tin the right direction however possible, but not so foolhardy as to make giant, uncalculated leaps of faith to land on untested explosives willy-nilly.

    Isn’t that what lead to the war in the first place- not considereing the consequences? Not doing so now, when we are trying to overcome the damage, is equally foolhardy.

    Concerning the Patriot Act, then, it’s not ecnough to ccy and whine about liberties. There has to be enough bi-partisan support for any action to overcome filibusters and veotes, or a proposal would be an empty gesture. More windmills, anyone?

  • http://www.whyweworry.com Chris

    domajot,
    The consequences weren’t examined when our leaders decided we should start torturing people and violating citizens privacy rights. Our Republic has stood against those actions since it’s inception, and we’re still here. Why should it all of the sudden be doomsday if we rollback 7 years?

  • Amanda

    Privacy is not the only civil liberty being threatened, and I don’t think it’s even the most important. People have been denied their right to a fair trial, something explicitly provided for in the Bill of Rights. So while you may not mind having Big Brother listening to your phone conversations, because hey, you have nothing to hide, when he decides to label you an enemy combatant and toss you in jail for mentioning the word “bomb” or “Osama” too many times in one call, it’ll be the ACLU funding the battle to get you a fair trial. Have a little care for your freedoms. You’ll miss them more than you know if they’re lost.

  • domajot

    Chris-
    “Why should it all of the sudden be doomsday if we rollback 7 years?”

    You cna’t ‘roll it back’ by pretending the 7 years, and their consequences, didn’t happen. You don’t get a do-over.
    X marks the spot. We are here. There are things we can do, and things we can’t do. There are things we could do that might have consequences as disasterous as any during the past 7 years.

    Some of those consequences would be political, setting the course for another 7 years of wars and their consequences.

    Be careful of what you wish for, and be careful of who and what you destroy while your ‘rolling back’

    Life is an endurance test, not a sprint to vicotry.
    The last 7 years should have taught us that, if nothing else.

  • domajot

    Amanda,

    I agree with you that privacy is not the most important issue.
    By far the most important are the laws that protect you against false accusations and false imprisonment.

    That part of our judcial system doesn’t work well even without the Patriot Act , unless one is rich enough to buy a fair share of justice via expensive legal representation. The WOT just makes eveything worse.

  • http://www.whyweworry.com Chris

    Domajot,
    You gave us a taste of these possible dangerous consequences if we leave Iraq, but I fail to see the consequences of not letting Dick Cheney listen to all of my phone conversations, or letting Gitmo detainees get a fair trial, or in not-torturing them.

    Maybe you can elaborate.

  • Dome

    Come on
    Lets stop with this we didn’t do this and they didn’t do that and they they did this…… Look, the DOJ is a joke and our coprrupt leadership is bringing the term “Orwellian” and “NewSpeak” to new heights. This has to stop now and as good a place as any is with the current Atty. General designate. NO! Clean, clear and simple. NO! This is not the counrty that we wish. And as for waiting another year, lets not. Much more damage can be done to the already tarnished image of what we are as well as cleaning up what has been left undone within our own borders.

  • domajot

    Chris=

    I agree with you about the goals towards which we should be haading.
    Then I look at Congress, and I have to accept the limits of what the Dems can do in the face of Rep stonewalling and Bush vetoes. I can’t demand that they fly like Superman. I ask: what is the best they can do UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES.

    I think also about the future. The Bush iconservatives and hawks will still be with us, and the Dems can’t afford to go so far afield that they lose all suport except for itheir own hard-core fans. I would rather they last long enough to LEAD , rather than bully,the nation toward real ard maningful reforms. That means swallowing hard and accepting that even those who disagree still lhave a say and a vote.

    To be right is not enough. To govern by leading everyone in the right direction is what it takes, IMO, for success that is more than a nine day’s wonder.

    What I’m hoping for is a LASTING political repositioning in the nation on many issues. I can accept losses as well as wins, as long as the direction is the right direction.
    That’s a much harder raoad that just listing demands.

    Let me ask you: How should the Democrats stop Cheney from listening to your phone calls?
    How should they force an end to Gitmo and its policies?
    Remember: Just saying ‘we want’ is not going bring success in today’s Washington. If that were possible, a few more bills might have passeed this year.

  • domajot

    DOME:-
    “…current Atty. General designate. NO! Clean, clear and simple. NO! This is not the counrty that we wish. And as for waiting another year, lets not. ”

    Okay, how do you propose FORCING the Pres. to nominate someone better?

    It would be delightful to hear someone offer a solution, instead of just anothe gripe.

  • kritt

    I mostly agree with Doma, that the Dems have been generally trying to do the right thing, but have been unable to win bipartisan support (R’s are sticking with W) to roll back portions of the Patriot Act, or to get a better AG nominee. Remember, Mukasey was the consensus nominee, they could have had Ted Olsen, who helped impeach Bill Clinton.

    I say mostly because, the Democrats have not tried hard enough to win over moderate Republicans, and seem to live in fear of a repetition of the “Max Clelland” moment, when one vote was used by Karl Rove to defeat and defame a patriotic Democrat.