Wednesday, February 08, 2006

James Madison, the Constitution and Tyranny



When the machiavellian pols at the White House found out that some brave soul with a conscience in the Bush Administration had contacted the New York Times to blow the whistle on the clearly illegal wiretaps the NSA had been conducting for a couple of years they went to work overtime. Via a request from the NSA the Department of Justice began an investigation into the leak. How paradoxical. The Bush Administration is going after the person/s who courageously warned Americans that something has gone awry in the executive leadership of this country.

Needless to say right wing-nut Republicans came to the defense of the law-breaking Bush and the actions of the NSA. The following was recently posted in a popular progressive Blog (as an example of idiotic thought):
Liberals continue to put our safety in jeopardy for purely partisan political reasons. Most liberals are so politically desperate that they cannot be trusted to keep secrets. The revelation of this program, unlike the Plaime crapola, has resulted in "severe harm" to our security and we have yet to hear the liberal outcry. It will take another 9/11 event in the homeland to put an end to the harmful liberal hackery. God save us all from liberal treachery.
The treachery I see is coming from the Bush White House. Leaving aside the rest of the reactionary nonsensical dribble, it comes down to what Senator Leahy said to Attorney Alberto Gonzales on Monday, "Nobody is above the law, not even the President of the United States." Sen. Leahy could have also added to the quote: "Not even in time of war." If one believes the president is above the law, at any time, then we’re sliding towards the destruction of our republican democracy (read: three separate co-equal governmental branches).

Remember that James Madison, known as the Father of our Constitution, once warned in Federalist No. 47 that the accumulation of power, unfettered power, in any of the three branches of our government was the definition of "tyranny."

In James Madison’s own words:
The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.
It was James Madison, in fact, that helped frame the Bill of Rights, including the Fourth Amendment. There is little doubt that the framers of our Constitution went to great lengths to secure for its citizens the arbitrary use of power from the government, even in time of war (Amendment III). Madison was a strong proponent of the Bill of Rights because he wanted to protect civil liberties that the federal government could easily curtail.

How ironic that hard-line Republicans always champion Constitutional originalism or strict constructionism and how the judiciary should use either as guiding principles. It seems they only argue that point when politically it best suits the Republicans, and only then. In this instance, it seems defenders of the Bush Administration adhere to a conceptual framework known as the "living Constitution," that is, interpreting the Constitution to the needs of the society rather than a fixed maybe outdated meaning. So, neo-conservatives and reactionary Republicans embrace the "unitary presidency," especially in time of war; screw FISA, warrants, and the intent of the legislature.

Instead of posting a painting of Founding Father James Madison, should I have posted an upside down flag of the United States, an international signal of distress? Maybe I should have because our American Republic, our Constitution, and the venerable separation-of-powers doctrine we cherish are in a state of crisis and the sooner we Americans come to realize that, the better.

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