October 18, 2006

A Legacy of Despotic Power

Yesterday, President George W. Bush deepened his betrayal of the Constitution he swore to preserve, protect and defend by signing into law the Military Commissions Act, legislation he sought vigorously and enthusiastically.

As detailed extensively in Systematically Destroying What It Means to be American, this new law grants the the president power to label anyone he chooses - including American citizens - "illegal enemy combatants,” and imprison them without trial, access to counsel, or even the right to see all of the evidence brought against them. It provides him the ability to decide - on his own - what "harsh" interrogation methods he considers permissible, while distinctly narrowing the types of physical abuse that are defined as torture, and it allows evidence that has been coerced to be admitted against those unlucky enough to find themselves in the legal black hole that is already forming.

The United States has a checkered past with regard to laws like the Military Commissions Act, but in some ways that is what makes this particular piece of legislation so alarming and so tragic. Only a president willfully disconnected from both reality and history could ignore the lessons of John Adams' Alien and Sedition Acts, Woodrow Wilson's Espionage Act, and Franklin Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066, each of which were touted as necessary for the protection of Americans, but which all fulfilled to terrible effect the potential for abuse they promised.

And the leading ranks of the abuse that will surely follow the passage of the Military Commissions Act are already visible on the horizon.

Today, federal investigators told a judge they wanted to question convicted "shoe bomber" Richard Reid - who is nearly as famous for his ineptitude as for his efforts to blow up an airliner with explosives hidden in his sneakers - without a lawyer or anyone else present. Despite the fact that no credible link between Reid and al-Qaeda has ever been established, and the additional fact that he has been in prison for five years, the government claims that he "may have knowledge of additional terrorist plots."

Assistant U.S. Attorney James Farmer went so far as to say that they want to talk to Reid alone in order "to develop a 'personal rapport,' which would be difficult to do with an attorney or any third party in the room." While Richard Reid is a terrorist duly convicted of attempted murder, until proven otherwise, this rapid and enthusiastic embrace of the new latitude allowed interrogators by the Military Commissions Act can only be regarded as ominous for anyone mistakenly or unjustly in custody.

Keith Olbermann has previously covered the elimination of habeas corpus that is so central to the Military Commissions Act, but tonight, he delivered a particularly empassioned and strongly-worded special comment on the topic. The depth to which President Bush's corruption of American values affects Mr. Olbermann shines through, and I share every ounce of his outrage, anger, and utter disgust with our current president and the potentially irrevocable damage he is doing to our once-proud nation.

The Military Commissions Act's elimination of habeas corpus only strengthens the well-established and well-deserved opinion that George W. Bush is a corrupt liar and an ignorant, callous fool worthy of no one's trust or respect. Too weak to perform the duties of his position within the bounds of either the Constitution or objective reality, he consistently seeks the easy way out, blind to the consequences of his actions and dependent on a worldview largely detached from fact. History will deservedly judge him in the harshest of lights.

Adams, Wilson and Roosevelt all accomplished great things, which - while unquestionably stained by their missteps - marked them as men who, in the final reckoning, made postive contributions to these United States. Mr. Bush can claim no such thing. The legacy of his presidency will be little more than a swath of lives ruined and lost in the wake of a quest to accrue power to an office he was too inept and untrustworthy to fill.

George W. Bush is a national embarrassment of the first order, and as we work in the coming decades to undo the chaos and destruction he has wrought on not only our nation's reputation, but its very foundation, we must never forget the heights of his conceit, the depths of his stupidity, or the role of the public's fear in keeping him in power.

Olbermann's commentary is below:

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