The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

St. Jefferson, pray for us.

One of the scariest things about reactionaries and authoritarians, historically, is their willingness-- even eagerness to rewrite history in a manner that suits them, and more generally to have no problem whatsoever with lying "in service of the greater good." Sure, everyone does this to a degree, but it's the difference between telling yourself they're just jealous of your awesome dance moves and lying to the entire globe to start a war that kills tens of thousands.

Then there's the whole Christianist effort to portray the founders of the United States as fundamentalist theocrats. Ignoring the fact that 'republic' and 'theocracy' are mutually exclusive, there's the fact that today's Christianists would see most of the Founders as heretics doomed to roast in hell.

Now, an op-ed in the NYT has combined the two into a synergistic nightmare.

The war is hardly the only area where the Bush administration is trying to expand its powers beyond all legal justification. But the danger of an imperial presidency is particularly great when a president takes the nation to war, something the founders understood well. In the looming showdown, the founders and the Constitution are firmly on Congress’s side.

Given how intent the president is on expanding his authority, it is startling to recall how the Constitution’s framers viewed presidential power. They were revolutionaries who detested kings, and their great concern when they established the United States was that they not accidentally create a kingdom. To guard against it, they sharply limited presidential authority, which Edmund Randolph, a Constitutional Convention delegate and the first attorney general, called “the foetus of monarchy.”

The founders were particularly wary of giving the president power over war. They were haunted by Europe’s history of conflicts started by self-aggrandizing kings. John Jay, the first chief justice of the United States, noted in Federalist No. 4 that “absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for the purposes and objects merely personal.”

Recommended reading, in spite of the basic concepts being things we learned in junior high civics. That's what makes it so nightmarish, though: this administration is openly trashing the Constitution they are sworn to uphold and engaging in criminal acts. As you can learn from any social studies text. But Republican legislators and a third of the American public just don't care.