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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Greenwald

While we're reviewing slim political monographs that people should read, let me put in a plug for my recent airplane reading: blogger Glenn Greenwald's How Would A Patriot Act? At least for now, I can assure you, it can be carried through airport security checkpoints without triggering those double secret full body cavity screenings.

For any of you who may not be familiar with his blog, Greenwald has been the go-to guy on the Bush Administration's war on U.S. civil liberties since opening up shop less than a year ago. So his indictment of the Bushies deals extensively with the cases of the U.S. citizens (Hamdi and Padilla) declared 'enemy combatants' by the WPE, and to a somewhat lesser extent with the warrantless domestic surveillance programs (news of which had been breaking around the time Patriot was being written).

Having followed the cases via both the blogs and also traditional news sources, not much of the first two-thirds of the book was exactly news. I'd even dog-eared a page (in the seventies out of ~125) where George F. Will was quoted saying the obvious for what seemed like the first time — in effect, that only someone who'd flunked middle school U.S. history and never recovered academically could possibly think that the powers asserted by the Bushies were meant to be conveyed to the office of the president by the founders — while thinking Greenwald had buried his lede.

But really, he was just at that point getting to the meat of the indictment: with nice use of the Federalist, Greenwald shows that even if the plain language of the Constitution weren't enough for you, the founders made it abundantly clear that they did not mean to establish an elected monarchy — let alone hereditary monarchy, as in Judge Anna Diggs Taylor's recent opinion in ACLU v. NSA.

I see this as boiling down to a huge political problem stemming from the fact that we're forced to take seriously a legal theory of the U.S. presidency that makes 9/11 conspiracy nuttery look like general relativity (squandering of intellectual credibility to the contrary notwithstanding).

If you need a reason why it's worth getting the Republicans out of power in the legislative branch, Greenwald's book is an excellent place to start.

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