One of things that probably upsets me the most about our political system and the citizens it should represent is that not only do many, many people not even understand the basic rights and protections of the constitution -- they don’t even care. All the grim, extralegal and downright hostile attacks on the constitution under Bush -- suspension of habeas corpus, declaring U.S. citizens enemy combatants with no legal rights, redefining torture in order to enable torture -- were met by shrugs of that’s what you have to do and it’s hard world and whatever it takes to stop terrorists.
It’s a cliché by now, but it merits repeating until it finally gets through to a significant block of people: the constitution itself and the rights it guarantees and the way we enjoy those rights are the reason some seek to attack us. Doing the work of those people by shredding the document ourselves in the name of security -- and doing so willingly and enthusiastically -- threatens to render meaningless our entire political foundation.
In other words, there are way too many people who think the constitution begins and ends with the second amendment and all that other shit about checks and balances is for wusses. I should note that I say that as someone who, despite a lifelong distaste for guns and gun culture, thinks the second amendment means what it says (although it should be subject to reasonable regulation, just as first amendment doesn’t preclude libel and slander laws).
Anyway, it comes as no shock that the masterminds behind the Bush power grab went far further than we had known, basically declaring that the president’s power was unlimited by the constitution as long as the president decided the country was at war or under attack or, basically, however he wanted to define it. Checks and balances were no more, and anyone who valued the rule of law was dismissed as a hysterical denier of the terrorist threat.
A couple paragraphs from Glenn Greenwald at Salon as he analyzes the new spate Bush-era documents released by Obama’s Justice Dept. caught my eye:
One of the central facts that we, collectively, have not yet come to terms with is how extremist and radical were the people running the country for the last eight years. That condition, by itself, made it virtually inevitable that the resulting damage would be severe and fundamental, even irreversible in some sense. It's just not possible to have a rotting, bloated, deeply corrupt and completely insular political ruling class -- operating behind impenetrable walls of secrecy -- and avoid the devastation that is now becoming so manifest. It's just a matter of basic cause and effect.
Read the whole thing. And read the documents that have come out, and read the reporting on the documents. Oh, and don't forget to read about the destruction of nearly 100 videotapes, evidence of U.S. torture "interrogations," to protect the former administration from prosecution. This isn’t about revenge on George Bush, as attractive a prospect that might actually be for some. It’s about limiting the insanity he unleashed with the idea of a secretly autocratic president unbound by the rule of law, an idea that can take root in any political system or bureaucracy and grow to the point where it may never be pruned back. And if too few people can be bothered to care -- if they celebrate their loss of freedom in exchange for a false sense of security -- then it never will be.