Home     Writers     Op/Ed     Book Reviews     News     Bookstore     Photoshops     Submit     Search     Contact Us     Advertise  
  You are here: 

Sun

21

Dec

2008

America’s Acid Test
Sunday, 21 December 2008 15:34

by Stephen P. Pizzo

“For as in absolute governments the king is law, so in free countries the law ought to be king; and there ought to be no other.”

- Thomas Paine (1776)

I don’t know when it’s hardest to be a liberal; when Democrats are out of power, or when Democrats are in power.

We’re just getting out of a decade of out of power, and it’s been tough. Really tough. But now we are just days away from it becoming all Democrats all the time, and I’m wondering.

What I’m wondering most about is whether, during that decade in the desert, Democrats forgot, or simply decided to chuck, all that gushy, flowery stuff our founders put in the Constitution. Have Democrats become like religious folk who pay lip service to their Ten Commandments while picking and choosing which commandments they figure apply to them?

The Catholic Church has a name for folks who do that. They call them “cafeteria Catholics.”

So, have incoming Democrats, including Obama himself, become cafeteria constitutionalists?

After they raise their hands in January and swear to defend the US Constitution, will Democrats then pick and choose which parts of the US Constitution are convenient to support and which they’ll just shine on because enforcing them would be too “politically messy?”

And what could be more politically messy than pursuing the truckloads of evidence that members of the outgoing administration, including the President and Vice President of the United States of America, may have violated the Constitution, common law, international laws and international treaties! Talk about messy!

But it’s precisely at times like this when Americans, from top to bottom, have to either put their stated values where their highfalutin’ mouths are, or just drop the pretense and admit they prefer making it up as need be — you know, like the last guys did, and got away with.


From: Halsbury’s Laws of England, Constitutional Law and Human Rights:
… every official, from the Prime Minister down to a constable or a collector of taxes, is under the same responsibility for every act done without legal justification as any other citizen. The Reports abound with cases in which officials have been brought before the courts, and made, in their personal capacity, liable to punishment, or to the payment of damages, for acts done in their official character but in excess of their lawful authority. Appointed government officials and politicians, alike … and all subordinates, though carrying out the commands of their official superiors, are as responsible for any act which the law does not authorise as is any private and unofficial person.
— Law of the Constitution (London: MacMillan, 9th ed., 1950), 194.
Washington folk love to throw our system up in the face of leaders of oppressive governments. They are especially found of lecturing them about how, “Americans stand for the principle that a democratic government is one that is a government of laws, not of men.” They love that one — rhetorically anyway.

You can also find that line quoted in too many U.S. Supreme Court cases to count, and in every state supreme court in the United States.

The phrase “Equal Justice Under Law” is literally chiseled in granite over the front door of US Surpreme Court.

So, will our newly minted Democratic officials fulfill their constitutional obligation? Or will they decide that doing so, in some cases, is simply more trouble than it’s worth, too much a distraction, too much of a hot potato? That investigating the previous Republican administration would annoy Republicans in Congress and screw up plans for tidy little “across the aisle” bipartisan deals?

Or will our new Democratic Party leaders find coverage behind the financial crisis, contending that now is not the time to throw Washington and the nation into political turmoil over some past constitutional “spilt milk.”

“Since the election, President-elect Barack Obama has mostly dropped his criticism of the current administration, preferring to concentrate his energies on the future.”

Maybe later, they might promise. Oh, but wait, there’s that old, “justice delayed is justice denied” thing. Huh? Right? And of course, there would be no “later.” It’s going to be now, or it’ll be never.

Give me a clue here. Are Democrats going to contend that sometimes defending the US Constitution is just more damn trouble than it’s worth? That enforcing the law of the land can screw up the smooth operation of the legislative process? And that sometimes we just need a “time out” from all that “freedom” and “equal justice” stuff?

Because failing to investigate so many alleged crimes, would be just that… a time out… setting the stage for many more time outs ahead.

I’ve said it before; if we allow this administration to simply dissolve off into oblivion, with no more than a “good riddance,” we will have permanently discredited everything that made America different, better. And we would set a prescient our grandkids and their grandkids will live to regret.

Bush and Cheney contend all they needed to legally violate the US Constitution was a lawyer letter. They didn’t break the law, and they have a letter from their attorney to prove it. That attorney, by the way, would be former Assistant US Attorney, John Yoo, (whose nickname in the administration was “Dr. Yes.”)

Senator Carl Levin, who is pushing for a post-Bush investigation, doesn’t agree; “You can’t suddenly change something that’s illegal into something that is legal by having a lawyer write an opinion saying it’s legal.”

Of course not. If that were so there would be no need for the long and complicated constitutional amendment process required (up until now) to change the law of the land. If Bush and Cheney’s view is allowed to stand, all future presidents would need is a letter from a friendly lawyer.

I worry about a lot of things lately, the economy, loose nukes, al Qaida and climate change. But none of them, not one of them, strikes more at the heart of who and what we are as a nation and people than whether or not we still have the intellectural and moral honesty and backbone to enforce the rule of law — not just for the lowest among us, but the highest as well. Especially the highest.

Finally I leave you with this, another moment in history when the civilized world had to decide whether or not to let horrific acts by high public officials would stand. From the closing statement of US Supreme Court Justice, Robert Jackson as he served as chief prosecutor at the Nuremburg Trials in 1946:

“In conspiracy we do not punish one man for another man’s crime. We seek to punish each for his own crime of joining a common criminal plan in which others also participated. The measure of the criminality of the plan and therefore of the guilt of each participant is, of course, the sum total of crimes committed by all in executing the plan. But the gist of the offense is participation in the formulation or execution of the plan.

These are rules which every society has found necessary in order to reach men, like these defendants, who never get blood on their own hands but who lay plans that result in the shedding of blood. All over Germany today, in every zone of occupation, little men who carried out these criminal policies under orders are being convicted and punished.

It would present a vast and unforgivable caricature of justice if the men who planned these policies and directed these little men should escape all penalty.”


Amen.

More from this author:
Predictions for 2007 (6335 Hits)
by Stephen P. Pizzo The War: Jenna & Barbara Bush will not be part of their dad's troop surge. Ditto for any member of the Cheney clan. ...
White House Chess (5928 Hits)
by Stephen P. Pizzo The Washington media spent the holidays trying to guess what the President's new plan for Iraq might be. Meanwhile in the...
Fine Mess You Got Us Into This Time (7475 Hits)
by Stephen P. Pizzo At the moment all the focus is on what George W. Bush is going to do about the mess he's made of Iraq. But the larger...
New Lies Forward (5922 Hits)
by Stephen P. Pizzo Well it's a new year, and you know what that means... time to update the administration's list of stated reasons for it's...
The GOP's Comprehensive Immigration Reform Scam (6432 Hits)
by Stephen P. Pizzo Traditional conservative, William F. Buckley was once asked how he would describe a “liberal.” He thought for...
Related Articles:
First Real Test for Democrats: The Lame Duck Session of Congress (7282 Hits)
by Dave Lindorff Forget all the talk about civility and compromise. It's clear that President Bush and his aiders and abettors in the...
An Open Letter to the New Congress - Investing in Hate: America’s Support of Israel (9400 Hits)
by William A. Cook “[It] is wrong to suggest that the Jewish people would support a government in Israel or anywhere else that...
Bomb Test Fails to Capture Interest - Divine Strake to go Ahead (5767 Hits)
by Ed Kociela Major media across the country have turned a deaf ear on an upcoming bomb test at the Nevada Test Site. This isn't an...
America’s Narcissists indifferent to Iraqi casualties (4390 Hits)
by Ahmed Amr You can’t make this stuff up. George Bush believes that “the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of...
America’s ‘Global War On Terrorism’ (4871 Hits)
by Shahid Alam One day Mulla Nasruddin went to his neighbor, known to be a mean fellow. “Sir,” he explained, “your ox has gored my cow...


Add this page to your favorite Social Bookmarking websites
Trackback(0)
Comments (0)add comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

adsense

Top