Monday, June 07, 2004

Extreme situations

Josh Marshall provides an enlightening take on the whole question of whether a President should ever consider it proper to break the law. He goes back to Thomas Jefferson to argue the point that extreme situations may dictate that the President temporarily take on an extra-legal role (e.g., if the question comes down to one of preserving the nation or breaking the law then it is reasonable to argue that the President should consider the law a disposable barrier to fulfilling his duty to protect the nation). But, if he does so, he must, after the fact, submit his decision to the people (through the congress, the courts or the ballot box) to pass the final judgment on the rightness of his actions.

This is entirely different than what was suggested in the DOD memorandum. The memorandum in question said:

To protect subordinates should they be charged with torture, the memo advised that Mr. Bush issue a "presidential directive or other writing" that could serve as evidence, since authority to set aside the laws is "inherent in the president."

This legal opinion doesn't suggest that the President can forgo the law if they prove inconvenient to protecting the nation. They suggest that the law, in and of itself, derives its authority from the President.

Now, the Bushies might argue otherwise on this matter, but the proof of their stance will be shown only if and when Bush is willing to submit his "extra-legal actions" to the judgment of the true sovereigns in this nation. Yet this memorandum also provides arguments for how to avoid prosecution as well as how to break the law in the first place. Furthermore, the Bush administration has gone out of its way to treat the American people as equivalent to terrorists when it comes to revealing information about what they are doing. How can we judge them if we don't have the information on which to base a judgment?

They want the power and they don't think they should have to answer for their use of it.

What does it matter to Bush anyway? After all, in the end, "we'll all be dead anyway."


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