Wednesday, April 29, 2009

America's Divine Right of (Republican) Kings

"But where says some is the King of America? I’ll tell you Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Britain. Yet that we may not appear to be defective even in earthly honors, let a day be solemnly set apart for proclaiming the charter; let it be brought forth placed on the divine law, the word of God; let a crown be placed thereon, by which the world may know, that so far as we approve as monarchy, that in America the law is King. For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other." - Thomas Paine

"the very definition of a republic is an empire of laws, and not of men. . . . that form of government which is best contrived to secure an impartial and exact execution of law, is the best of republics." - John Adams

"No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it. Obedience to the law is demanded as a right; not asked as a favor." - Teddy Roosevelt

After the Abu Graib torture and NSA domestic spying scandals failed to faze fanatic Smirky/Darth supporters, I said that such people would still worship Bush even if they saw him ass-rape a five-year-old live on national television.

Boy it really pisses me off when my best hyperbole is trumped by reality.

Glenn Greenwald brings his patented eloquent outrage to the insistence by the Beltway Media Villagers that no crime is terrible enough to justify forcing high government officials to be prosecuted for breaking the law.

It just cannot be said enough that our political elites truly do believe that "law" is only for the dirty, filthy masses -- but not for them. It really is that explicit. Joan Walsh was on Howie Kurtz's CNN show yesterday and the other guests -- The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza and former Bush speechwriter David Frum -- responded to her like she was from Neptune all because she repeatedly made one point -- torture is against the law and therefore those who ordered it, by definition, committed crimes. This is a point they literally could not comprehend. That's because they reject the necessary premise in which this simple proposition is grounded: that political leaders are bound by what we call "law." The reason we have become the country we've become is because we've fallen all the way down to Jon Meacham and David Broder from what, at least in principle, used to guide us.


If one surveys the wreckage that has become our political class, this explains much of it: we've gone from Paine ("so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America the law is King") and Adams ("an empire of laws, and not of men") and Roosevelt ("No man is above the law") to Newsweek and Jon Meacham ("That is not to say presidents and vice presidents are always above the law") and David Broder (holding leaders accountable for lawbreaking is ugly, destructive, populist vengeance except when it involves a sex scandal).

It's difficult to imagine how nauseated (though perhaps not surprised) people like Paine and Adams would be if they would have known that, a mere 230 years later, we'd have as opinion-making elites people like David Broder and Jon Meacham declaring that "presidents and vice presidents are [not] always above the law" -- this is the American President we're talking about; criminal prosecutions are inappropriate for his crimes-- as though that theoretical concession represents the reasonable, centrist, responsible view rather than the authoritarian, lawless, establishment-revering, deeply un-American tripe that it is.

Read the whole thing.

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