October 1, 2007

Hmm--some very conservative thoughts on Ron Paul and the GOP

We have noted that many conservatives see Bush as someone who has bastardized the concept, and this commentator takes that approach to address why many Christians have not supported Ron Paul. The big reason, he suggests, is Paul's opposition to the war. On that we agree. And we agree that the Bush admin so bungled this approach to war that we have no real clear reason why we went to war, and so no way to quantify why we won or lost it. We agree completely.

We also agree when he suggests that in supporting Bush, we have given up numerous civil rights:
A really odd thing about this war is that, under the guise of fighting terrorism, American citizens have lost many of their Constitutional protections. We are now subjected to unconstitutional surveillance as if we are guilty before proven innocent. Our phones are tapped, our emails read, our banking records monitored, and such. All without a warrant, despite the fact that it's easy for them to obtain a warrant when one is remotely necessary. If anyone (even you or I) is declared an "enemy combatant" (which can be arbitrarily declared by the president) you lose your right to habeas corpus, charges, a speedy jury trial, evidence, appeal, conviction, representation, and the presumption of innocence. You can be arrested without cause or charges given and imprisoned for an indeterminate amount of time. Those are the tactics of the Soviet Gulag or Red China. How comfortable will you feel with these powers in the hands of President Hillary? Why in the world should we willingly give up our freedoms so those nasty terrorists don't take them from us? Why don't all you war-on-Iraq supporters give me all your money before some criminal steals it? It's the same logic.
Where we part company, I realized, is his assumption that this war was illegal. He suggests that all wars since WW2 have been illegal because of the lack of congressional declaration. I understand the point, but would suggest that with all due respect, I am not sure that is the problem here. Had Bush demanded an act of war, given the state of fear that Rove/Cheney/Bush encouraged, I have no doubt the Republican dominated Congress would have obliged. I would further suggest that the authorization that so many people approved--while not technically a declaration, functioned as one.

No, I don't think we can blame this on Bush violating the Constitution--at least in this particular case. We can certainly blame him and his people for misleading the American people, and we can certainly blame him for appealing to people's fear, but ultimately, we have to recognize that our democratic system failed us here. Bush didn't break the law to pass the Patriot Act, but it still passed. Bush didn't break the law to pass the Military Commissions Act either. Both violate basic constitutional protections, but both were approved by our representatives.

For me the issue is the failure of our democratic process. We allowed this man to do this. As much as we will loathe him and what he has done, we have to take responsibility for sitting by while he undermined our system.


Matthew said...

Here's the way I see it:

A declaration of war forces Congress to take responsibility for their actions. A declaration of war implies that Congress has taken a good look at the issue and determined that there is a threat to national security that calls for immediate action. Evidence is provided, action is taken, and responsibility lies at the feet of Congress.

What Congress did instead was pass all responsibility for Iraq into the hands of Bush. That way, if things went sour (as things did), they could claim innocence and ignorance as to the true nature of the (non)threat.

Check out Dr. Paul's Texas Straight Talk Column "Why Won't Congress Declare War?"

steve s said...

"I would further suggest that the authorization that so many people approved--while not technically a declaration, functioned as one."

I believe this assessment is correct. I was taking a Con Law seminar in 2001-2002 and this issue came up on many occasions (I believe there was even an exam question).

The concept that a president can act without a formal declaration of war is not a new one. In The Prize Cases (67 U.S. (2 Black) 635), the Supreme Court said President Lincoln could maintain a blockade of the southern ports without a formal declaration of war because Congress authorized this action.

During the Vietnam War, there were many attempts to have the War categorized as illegal and undeclared. The courts refused these cases based on justiciablity concerns. Essentially, they did not want to step into a conflict between Congress and the President until each branch has asserted their authority.

I don't believe it is likely the Supreme Court would hear a case in the Iraq War because the President has generally enjoyed the support of Congress. Even if they did, I am not sure that would find the war to be unConstitutional, as Congress clearly authorized the current War.

I understand Ron Paul's point on this, but I just think he is wrong. I agree that this war is bad on many levels, but it is not illegal in the Constitutional sense (though I do believe there is a case to be made in regards to international law, but that is whole other can of worms). I understand that the lack of a formal declaration allows Congress to flip flop and blame the President, but I am sure they could do the same if there had been a formal declaration. Also, during the Vietnam War, Congress did not escape criticism.

Tony said...

Thanks, Streak, for posting on this. Something I felt was not quite right about the article but I could not put my finger on it.

I concur that this war is bad on so many levels and Congress cannot escape accountability. Your point about the failure of our government is the most salient one I have ever seen, that is, applying it to the war. I think I may have asked you this before, but how is it Bush has been able to consolidate that much power? And why has Congress since the mid-terms continued to allow it to happen?

Streak said...

I am not sure I can answer that. One part is that the GOP has searched for Karl Rove clones like this tool from NC: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_T._McHenry
These are politicians who, like Rove and Cheney, see politics purely as a competition rather than what is best for their constituents.

But even that doesn't really explain how Bush and Cheney have been able to consolidate power and maintain it even as a minority. Sure, what was called obstructionism when the Dems did it is now somehow politics.

I also suspect that the Democrats, and this is not a good thing, are playing for the next election and biding their time. Instead of taking Bush on directly, they are hoping not to lose and hold on until he leaves.

Bootleg Blogger said...

My opinion on "how is it Bush has been able to consolidate that much power?" is one word- fear. People in fear for their lives will sometimes allow almost any measure to be taken if it can be couched in providing or returning security. We're a ways out now, but I'll never forget the genuine fear I witnessed in numerous people, particularly of my parents' generation, in the aftermath of 9/11. Fear and a desire for revenge clouded alot of thinking.-Later-BB