Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Justice, American-style

I think of Julian Assange in jail (no doubt a result of considerable arm-twisting by the U.S. State Department), while real criminals with the blood of many on their hands - George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith, John Ashcroft, John Bolton, William Kristol, Richard Perle, Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, John Yoo, and so many others - enjoy freedom and prosperity. The misplaced outrage is shameful. The emperor is exposed. A child in the crowd is speaking out, the "adults" all around telling him to "hush!"

Friday, December 03, 2010

Against an Imperial Presidency


I was reading this from James Madison last night. (Tea Party boosters are no doubt familiar with these passages). Here Madison addresses the dangers of what has become a popular notion of the Unitary Executive:
The Constitution expressly and exclusively vests in the legislature the power of declaring a state of war; it was proposed that the executive might, in the recess of the legislature, declare the United States to be in a state of war.

The Constitution expressly and exclusively vests in the legislature the power of raising armies: it was proposed, that in the recess of the legislature, the executive might, at its pleasure, raise or not raise an army of ten, fifteen, or twenty-five thousand men.

The Constitution expressly and exclusively vests in the legislature the power of creating offices; it was proposed that the executive, in the recess of the legislature, might create offices, as well as appoint officers, for an army of ten, fifteen, or twenty-five thousand men.

A delegation of such powers would have struck, not only at the fabric of our Constitution, but at the foundation of all well organized and well checked governments.

The separation of the power of declaring war from that of conducting it is wisely contrived to exclude the danger of its being declared for the sake of its being conducted.

The separation of the power of raising armies from the power of commanding them is intended to prevent the raising of armies for the sake of commanding them.

The separation of the power of creating offices from that of filling them is an essential guard against the temptation to create offices for the sake of gratifying favorites or multiplying dependents.

Where would be the difference between the blending of these incompatible powers, by surrendering the legislative part of them into the hands of the executive, and by assuming the executive part of them into the hands of the legislature? In either case the principle would be equally destroyed, and the consequences equally dangerous.