Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Shorter Bill Kristol

Vital Presidential Power:

Quick! There's a ticking time bomb; what do you want, a decisive, action-hero President to spy on Americans, or a lumbering Congress to go though all that legal rigamarole, defering to an antique concept called "due process", after which it may or may not take the necessary steps to solve the problem?

The state of emergency-ticking time bomb argument is so cachet among reactionaries it's in danger of becoming careworn. Dr Kraphammer, of course, used it to wingnuts' glee in the torture debate. Kraphammer's argument was authoritatively disposed of by Michael Kinsley.

Kristol essentially uses the same argument to excuse the President's wiping of the First Ass with the constitution. (Also, he and Bush are using another argument we'd better get used to, the Lincoln Defense, which basically goes as follows: Congress acts too slowly, and I have sworn an oath to execute my office and defend the constitution. Of course in Lincoln's day, due to technological and logistical issues, Congress did act slowly -- much of its membership wasn't even in Washington when Lincoln had to make crucial decisions in a real [as opposed to a contrived, intentionally never-ending] state of emergency. In other words, context please. But the wingnuts don't care about that; they simply see precedent and therefore an excuse.)

Anyway, I never thought I'd approvingly link to Jim Henley, a libertarian who sees in the New Deal a scheme of soul-crushing oppression. Yet Henley is a legitimate libertarian, not a propertarian, and so approvingly link I will, because he's demonstrated how the ticking time bomb-state of emergency argument has been the philosophical -- if that's the right word -- core of Bush-neocon wingnuttery from the get-go.

See also Crooked Timber.