Monday, January 16, 2006

Message to the Democratic Party 

. . . should Alito be confirmed without a filibuster:

"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen."
-- Samuel Adams, at the Philadelphia State House, August 1, 1776

UPDATE (courtesy of our venerated colleague Avedon Carol): Jonathan Alter at Newsweek explains the problem in terms so blunt even a Congressional Democrat should be able to understand them:
What if we faced a constitutional crisis and hardly anyone noticed? As he quietly mastered the tiresome cat-and-mouse game inside the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, Judge Samuel Alito gave few hints of where he stood on a matter that goes to the heart of what it means to live in a republic. With a few exceptions, the media coverage didn't help. It's so much easier to talk about Joe Biden's big mouth or a right-wing Princeton alumni group or Mrs. Alito's tears than to figure out how the country should prevent a president of the United States from castrating the United States Congress.

I wasn't expecting Alito to say whether he thought that President Bush broke the law when he admitted authorizing warrantless wiretaps on American citizens, which is a clear violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Alito is right not to comment on a specific case that, with any luck, will soon go rocketing toward the Supreme Court. I can even understand why he failed to offer an opinion on why Bush didn't simply seek to amend FISA (which Congress would have eagerly done after 9/11) if he believed his tools for catching terrorists were insufficient . . . .

Remember, this is not about whether it's right or wrong to wiretap bad guys, though the White House hopes to frame it that way for political purposes. Any rational person wants the president to be able to hunt for Qaeda suspects wherever they lurk. The "momentous" issue (Alito's words) is whether this president, or any other, has the right to tell Congress to shove it. And even if one concedes that wartime offers the president extra powers to limit liberty, what happens if the terrorist threat looks permanent? We may be scrapping our checks and balances not just for a few years (as during the Civil War), but for good.
See also our esteemed colleague Mary (of The Left Coaster) on Sen. Feinstein's pronouncement that there is nothing to justify a filibuster of Alito:
So I ask again, what gives these Senators (and that is all the Senators, and not just the Democrats, who swore to protect and defend the Constitution) the right to betray our constitution by confirming this man?

What will it take before our elected leaders understand that the reactionary right is playing for keeps. If our Senators give up on our constitution, what else will they betray just so they can continue to appear to be reasonable? Could they not have rallied together long enough to make Bush pay for flipping the finger at them when he signed the anti-torture bill while saying he wasn't bound by their laws and would do whatever he wanted? (Being omnipotent, he would know when to torture and when to show restraint and those lousy Senators could go jump in a lake if they object.)

Remember, our founding fathers didn't believe in imperial rulers. They didn't approve of tyranny. And they defined tyranny as when a ruler believes he is above the law.

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