Maybe the Dems Want Authoritarian Powers

Digby is befuddled by the Democrats’ race to authorize more wiretapping power to a patently untrustworthy administration.

Let’s set aside the idea that “trusting” the Bush administration with warrantless wiretaps is like trusting your four year old with a zippo lighter, what kind of bucket-of-lukewarm-spit kind of politics is this? What are they afraid of, that the Bush administration will blame them if a terrorist attack occurs and they didn’t approve another blank check? Guess what? It wouldn’t matter if the Democrats named Bush king with the power to draw and quarter hippies and Muslims on the white house lawn, they will still blame the Democrats if there is another terrorist attack.

I do not know what this latest program is, but whatever it is, it needs to be approved by somebody other than the White House. I’m sorry, but that should be non-negotiable. Dick Cheney has delegated to himself virtually limitless power and he is borderline insane. The executive branch cannot be trusted with additional power of any kind. They have quite enough, thank you.

(emphasis in the original)

Avedon Carol writes at Eschaton (where she was sitting in for Atrios) wondering about lambert’s question at corrente: why aren’t the Dems explicitly condemning the Bush Admin’s anti-Constitutionality and promising to restore the rights Bushies have stolen from us?

The Democrats are under tremendous pressure from the right-wing spinnners on The Hill and their media handmaidens to ignore these important issues. They’re going to ask them about haircuts and cleavage.
So, when we have a chance to get them to talk about important questions, we’d damn well better take it.
We have to push back. That’s what democracy is all about: We have to tell them what we want – and when they are running for office, we have to ask them how they plan to give us what we want.

eRobin at Fact-esque, who was, as usual, ahead of everybody, wrote last week:

I want all the presidential candidates  to, at every opportunity, condemn specific steps this president has taken to undermine the Constitution and to pledge to reverse them ALL on his/her first day in office. I am vastly more concerned with their reluctance to do that than I am even with BushCo’s persistence on his unconstitutional path. (from BushCo I worry that we’ll get another 9/11) The damage he’s done can be contained not only by impeachment (which would be my first choice in a reasonable world but is not in this one) but also by immediate repudiation of what he’s done over the last two terms by whoever gets elected to succeed him.

Putting these two concerns together raises a disturbing question, and since it seems to be my function to think the unthinkable and verbalize the thoughts no one else wants to admit having, I will do my duty and turn over the rock.

The Democrats, like everyone else in the known world, are assuming that the White House will belong to them in ’09. Given the Pubs’ apparent determination to self-destruct by strenuously opposing a withdrawal from Iraq and obstructing legislation everybody wants, like the SCHIP expansion, even as they demand more debt-borrowing to finance energy companies, it’s entirely possible that for once they’re right. So:

Is it conceivable that Democrats are reluctant to explicitly condemn the unConstitutional powers assumed by our imperial president because at some level they themselves wants access to at least some of those powers when they gain control again?

The answer, I’m afraid, is Yes.

That answer is based on the rather elementary observation that since Ronald Reagan, the Democratic Party has slowly but inexorably been in the process of accepting conservative prescriptions of executive power. Joel Hanes, commenting at my recent post on impeachment, reminds us that the Democrats refused to defend the Constitution back when Reagan & Co violated it over Iran/Contra. During the Clinton imbroglio, many of them defended his right to claim executive privilege over the Monica and Whitewater investigations, and – as we all know – they have never openly challenged Bush’s unConstitutional signing statements and executive orders authorizing things like secret prison systems, torture, and illegal wiretapping – indeed, as Digby says, they’re uncomfortably eager to give the Admin even more power in that regard.

Too many of them voted for the PATRIOT Act, too many of them have supported or at least not attacked the GOP’s penchant for having people arrested for things like wearing anti-Bush t-shirts, too many of them have never spoken out about the unilateral elimination of habeus corpus and those who have have been pretty fucking timid about it, and too many of them – waaay too many of them – have been instrumental in supporting legislation that encourages govt spying in the name of “national security”, pandering to the fear Republicans create and then exploit rather than fighting it.

Certainly one can speculate, as Digby does, that this is the result of “Democrats…trying to ‘out-tough’ each other or especially trying to ‘out-tough’ the GOP”, but there’s another explanation that doesn’t assume the Dems are idiots at PR: that they’ve accepted conservative arguments for the need of such executive power, accepted the concept of a never-ending GWOT, accepted the idea that we have to fight “the terrorists” any way we can.

This notion is given some substance by the fact that, when it comes to executive power trumping Congressional prerogatives, they have no problem whatever standing up to Bush. Criminal contempt citations have been issued for Miers and Bolton, and are just around the corner for Rove and Scott Jennings. To preserve Congressional privilege, they are willing to risk a Constitutional crisis. To risk one over unConstitutional acts by the executive which do not directly affect those privileges, not so much.

I’m not saying this is the answer, only that it might be and there’s some suggestive evidence that the Dems aren’t all that outraged by many of the Bush/Cheney power grabs. For example, there’s been no outrage from the Democrats that a member of their own party and a ranking member of the Homeland Security subcommittee with classified clearance was denied a look at the secret annexes of Directive 51 even though he was entitled to see them, and even though it was a slap in the face to long-established Congressional procedures.

Maybe it’s about time to face what we’d rather not: that the Dems aren’t as interested in protecting the Constitution as they are in protecting the executive privileges of a future Democratic president that Cheney’s imperial Doctrine of Unitary Executive Power offers.

4 responses to “Maybe the Dems Want Authoritarian Powers

  1. I think that you’re absolutely right about the Dems wanting that power for themselves – b/c of course, they’d use it benevolently, right?

    As usual with me it all goes back to two places: the loss of our vote to electronic voting and “free trade” globalization. The Dems are lockstep with the GOP in those areas where any opposition they would care to mount would enjoy huge public opinion majorities. We simply have no opposition party and with eVoting working its way into our blood stream, we are losing the means to ever get one.

  2. Yeah. The obvious answer to the Tweedledee-Tweedledum problem is a third party, but the system is rigged from the point of getting on the ballot right through to controlling electronic voting machines. Third parties are suppressed by both sides.

    It looks to me like we’re facing a horrendous choice of dictatorships: either the cruel, chaotic, corrupt Pub version or a slightly less venal, marginally more benevolent Dem version.

  3. Pingback: Authoritarian Democrats « Mick Arran

  4. The difference between “might be” and “is” comes down to this: a good number of Dems recognize the dangers to the republic of the unconstitutionality of the Bush-Cheney reign. Equally true, many do not. For the latter, there is no “might” involved: they, too, want Bush’s imperial power.

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