Before I begin this post, I want to thank the Ephors for the incredible honor of inviting me to write on their site. I truly feel I am surrounded on this blog site by some of the wisest people in America today. I hope my writings add value to this fantastic and worthy site, my fellow bloggers, and our readers.
So, what do you get when you mix a major national crisis, a lazy Congress, and a first term President that…oh for the love of…I just don’t have the words.
You get fear, of course, followed by violations of sacred American rights so unheard of that it makes my head spin. Well…maybe they’re not so unheard of. In fact, I should hardly be surprised. Haven’t I been talking about this all along? We’ve been setting the precedents all throughout our history, and it was bound to happen sooner or later.
The crisis, of course, was 9/11, and the President was George W. Bush. Now HE was in a quandary: it wasn’t the first time we had been attacked on American soil, but this one really shook our sense of security, because most Americans didn’t even know we were at war, and civilians were killed! Remember my comments here where I talked about our growing dependence on the government to look after us? Well, it isn’t just financial. Entitlement is a dangerous beast, and as Bush soon found out, the sentiment in the nation was one of growing fear and desire for protection from the threat of terrorism.
Don’t get me wrong. The primary role of the Federal Government is defense. However, as with all of the powers given to the Federal Government, it’s in how you wield them, and George W. Bush, like Lincoln in his day, seems to have forgotten that the United States government consists of three branches, not to mention 50 State governments. I can’t blame it all on Bush, though. Congress, too lazy to actually do its job, and the Supreme Court, idly standing by, are as much to blame for what I am about to relate.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Some form of this same sentiment can be attributed to just about every single one of the Founding Fathers. It’s obvious how they felt about giving up rights in exchange for “protection.” That’s why the Constitution only allows our government to protect us as long as it doesn’t interfere with our fundamental rights, as outlined in that document (and yes, the 2nd Amendment exists as much to protect us from our own government as it does against the Redcoats.)
Remember those Executive Orders that I talked about in my last post, and that Lincoln just loooved? Well, Dubya is a man after Abe’s own heart. Let’s go over what an Executive Order is and when it’s appropriate to use it. For reference, you can go here. First of all, let’s examine the name “Executive Order” (which also happens to be the name of the branch of government, the Executive Branch.) Seems pretty clear to me that that the term “Executive” has something to do with “executing,” AND, lo and behold, that’s exactly what it’s for! (Sometimes I amaze myself with my insight.) It turns out that the Executive Order is simply a way for the President (the Executive) to “execute” some legislation already passed by Congress. For example, say a law is passed that says that Oranges are illegal. Since it’s vague in the writing of the law what’s to be done with those illegal Oranges, then the President can give an Executive Order, to help him execute the law, that says that suspected Oranges will be arrested, go through due process, tried, etc. He cannot, however, extend that law to Tangerines, or have suspected Oranges killed on sight without due process (because they might be Tangerines, plus it’s a violation of Constitutional rights.) Get it? OK. AND, it’s only to be used as a last resort, when there is no other way for him to do his job effectively. Again, we do not use Executive Orders to create new laws!
So, back to 9/11. After the attack, Congress got together and passed the Patriot Act. This new legislation eased restrictions on the ability of intelligence agencies to search telephone communications, e-mail, medical records, and financial records, among other things. It also allowed the Secretary of the Treasury to monitor and regulate financial transactions, particularly those of foreign individual and entities. So far, the activities covered in the Patriot Act referred to foreign terrorists. (Let’s remember that foreigners do not have the same rights as American citizens.)
As an aside, tons of evidence exists that our intelligence agencies already had information that should have alerted them to the attacks before they happened without the need for all this extra legislation, IF they had been allowed to communicate with each other (thanks, Bill Clinton, for the brilliant Executive Orders that prevented that.)
Here is where it gets really scary: the legislation also expanded the definition of terrorism to include domestic terrorism. President Bush, after signing it into law, jumped right on that to extend the searches and seizures to American citizens, violating our 4th, 5th, and 6th Amendment rights, among others, all in the name of SAFETY!
Going beyond any power the Constitution ever gave the Executive Branch, George W. Bush created the Department of Homeland Security, now the third largest cabinet department, with over 200,000 Federal employees enjoying salaries and benefits from our tax money! Some of its claims to fame:
- They can arbitrarily decide that anyone is a “terrorist,” suspend their Habeas Corpus rights (remember that one?) take them to some unknown location, confiscate their property, and essentially make them disappear without due process.
- If a family member or friend of the suspected terrorist is questioned about them and tells them, then THAT person can also be declared a terrorist, and well…see above.
- That amazing color-coded system they came up with for announcing the “terror threat.”
- Let’s not forget the extremely effective TSA, forever strip-searching little old ladies and farmers with big belt buckles from Idaho as they go through airport security.
I don’t know about you, but like our Founders, I would much rather risk getting bombed by a terrorist than live in fear of my own government. Given that (statistically speaking) said terrorist is most likely going to be a Muslim male between 18 and 35 and on a suicide run, and the Federal Government is a nameless, faceless, ever-present group of millions of armed agents, I’ll take my chances against the terrorist.
Of course, that’s not all. As they are supposed to, our Executive and Legislative Branches actually did something right and determined the source of the terrorist attacks, Congress voted to go to war in Afghanistan (where the terrorist camps and Al Qaeda were found to be hiding) and President Bush executed the decision. Of course, he couldn’t leave it at that. He had to overstep his power yet again.
I’m not going to argue against going to war in Iraq. It was necessary to oust Saddam Hussein, and however much some politicians might gripe about it after the fact, Congress approved it. But George W. Bush put the cart before the horse by moving troops into the area before Congress voted to go to war. Like I said before, the job of the Executive is to execute once Congress has passed the resolution, not before. So, in a sense, Bush railroaded us into the war with Iraq by moving the troops in without permission. True, if Congress had not approved the war, the troops would have simply sat there. Again, though, we have a case of the how, not the what.
I’m harping on Bush right now, but he’s not the only Executive to abuse the power. I’ve already mentioned one blunder by his predecessor, Bill Clinton, which cost us the intelligence needed to detect 9/11 ahead of time. Another abuse by that President was the Executive Order to go to war in Bosnia without the approval of Congress (!) and yet another was to have Federal narcotics agents seize the personal property of suspected drug dealers without due process. Clinton even used an Executive Order to ban snowmobiles from Yellowstone National Park! Huh?? Was he going on vacay? Those darned snowmobiles sure are a threat to national security…if you’re going to abuse the power of the Executive, could it at least be on something less frivolous?
The Executive of New York City, Mayor Rudy Giuliani, committed similar Constitutional violations by ordering the cars of people arrested under the suspicion of DUI impounded and auctioned off with zero due process. He was recorded during that time as saying that he knew the courts would likely strike it down, but by the time they did the city would have made tons of money from car sales!
Are you scandalized? Outraged? Glad that someone finally wrote what you’ve been thinking? Whether you’re a fan of Dubya and angry at me for slamming him, or agree with everything I’ve just said, stay tuned, because I’m not done, not by a long shot. Oh, and wait until you read what I have to say about his successor, B.H. Obama…