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12. Protecting the Republic

The Democrats are failing us, as the recent FISA Court vote clearly demonstrates. They are not protecting our Civil Liberties, they are cowering before the political threats of a "politically weak" president and worst of all they are allowing him to arrogate more and more power into the Presidency. We need to make them understand that we want political leaders who will stand up for the People, our Liberties and the Republic.

Glenn Greenwald has written (here, here, here, here, here, and here) and spoken (here and here) extensively recently about how the Democrat-led Congress meekly deferred to the President and hastily revised the FISA laws, greatly expanding the government's power to secretly and without judicial or Congressional review tap any telephone or email communications that can be "reasonably believed" to be outside the US. Many others have taken up the cry and all of the Democratic Presidential hopefuls have distanced themselves from the action.

Most of the writing on this topic has spoken about the great harm done to our Civil Liberties, but as John Dean pointed out, in many ways, that is not the most important and dangerous aspect of the incident. Dean wrote in FindLaw's on-line journal, The Writ, an article entitled "The So-Called Protect America Act: Why Its Sweeping Amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Pose Not Only a Civil Liberties Threat, But a Greater Danger As Well". In it he wrote,

The most stunning aspect of the Democrats' capitulation is their abandoning of their institutional responsibility to hold the president accountable. The Protect America Act utterly fails to maintain any real check on the president's power to undertake electronic surveillance of literally millions of Americans. This is an invitation to abuse, especially for a president like the current incumbent.

Greenwald and numerous others have written of the FISA fiasco, that congress capitulated to the "weakest President" in recent history. Witness:

It is staggering, and truly disgusting, that even in August, 2007 -- almost six years removed from the 9/11 attacks and with the Bush presidency cemented as one of the weakest and most despised in American history -- that George W. Bush can "demand" that the Congress jump and re-write legislation at his will, vesting in him still greater surveillance power, by warning them, based solely on his say-so, that if they fail to comply with his demands, the next Terrorist attack will be their fault. And they jump and scamper and comply.
-- Glenn Greenwald in Salon.com

Once again, the weakest president in the history of this country walks away a WINNER!!! Winning BIG TIME!
-- PinkytheBrain in a comment in Crooks and Liars

I do not understand how "Total Capitulation", jumping at the demand of the politcally weakest President in history, and craven betrayal of principle makes the Democrats "appear stronger".
-- LJean a comment in Balkinization

But if 41 Democrats lack the courage to stand up to the weakest president in decades at a time when every indicator they trust—polls, focus groups, pundits—is saying no to this man, when will they find the strength to stand?

By "weakest", of course, they mean that the President has extremely little support among the People, and after all the People are the source of power in our country and under our constitution. And so, lacking popular support the President should be weak, but in two very great senses, he is not. And therein lies the rub.

First of all, as they point out, the Democrats routinely, repeatably and predictably capitulate and give him pretty much anything he asks for. And secondly, what he has asked for is Power, and they have given it to him. They heap it on him and when they don't he just takes it and they stand by.

This President, this "weak" President has the authority to federalize the National Guard and deploy the US military within the borders of the US when, and I quote the new text of the insurrection act "as a result of ..., or other condition ... the President determines that ... domestic violence has occurred .. and such violence ... obstructs the execution of the laws ... or impedes the course of justice". It used to be that he could do so only to put down violent rebellion and insurgency, or to repel invasion. Now, natural disaster, terrorism or the unspecified "other condition" is sufficient. He used to be able to order insurgents to disperse, now he can issue a proclamation ordering "insurgents or those obstructing the enforcement of the laws to disperse". If he thinks peaceful protesters "obstruct enforcement", he can use the military to disperse them, once he has invoked this act. No other President has had this power.

With the FISA rewrite, it is not the Court but Attorney General Alberto Gonzales who oversees warrantless wiretaps. The same Alberto Gonzales who could not answer an opinion question asked of him in Congressional hearings without taking it back to "his principal"; who believes that the President as the sole supervisor of the "unitary executive" makes all decisions.

No, in terms of legal power, granted him and abdicated to him by the Congress, and his reconstituted Supreme Court, the current President has more pure executive and governmental power than any previous President. God help us if he were politically powerful as well.

So what are we to do about it? Well, we can turn out any Congressman who doesn't stand up to him. We can replace them with people who understand that their mandate is to protect our liberties, our constitutional government and the Republic. But what if there aren't enough. California has no Senator who voted against FISA. Only one did in Massachusetts. These are the supposed extreme liberal states. What if there aren't any Democrats with backbone in a senatorial or congressional primary? Well, I suppose you could vote for the John Bircher, or the Libertarian. But still, what if there aren't enough?

Well, at least, wrote people last weekend, none of the Democratic Presidential candidates voted for the FISA amendment. Perhaps the answer is to vote for a strong Democratic President who will whip Congress into shape and... wait a minute... Isn't that proposing that we turn to a Strong Presidential candidate to protect the Republic by weakening the Presidency? Is there, perhaps, just perhaps, a teeny little issue hiding in there?

This, boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen, is not going to be easy. The reason that power corrupts is that good people are tempted to use it--just for now--when it falls into their hands, for good purposes, and there are always good purposes that need power. And so power is seldom surrendered. The time to stop this isn't in the next election, it is now!

The FISA bill was only a temporary stopgap, with a 6-month sunset clause. Speaker Pelosi has sent a letter saying that when Congress returns next month, they'll need to reexamine it. But President Bush has also said that it needs to be revisited. It is, he feels only a first step, and the whole change needs to be made. Congress has to grant him and the executive branch, which as the sole supervisor of the unitary executive, means him, more power, more immunity from oversight, more protection from prosecution for him and those who go along with him, inside or outside the law.

The time to act is now. Make sure your voice, your free voice for so long as it remains so, is heard. Demand that your congressmen stand up for the Republic and against the concentration of ever more power into the President's hands.

Vox Libertas
A Free Voice, that cries Freedom!

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