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(DV) Random: The Presidential Power Grab







Hanging the Libertarian
The Presidential Power Grab
by Jack Random
January 10, 2006

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Libertarian:  A person who upholds the principles of absolute and unrestricted liberty, esp. of thought and action. 


-- Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition. 

That awkward thud and creaking sound you heard was the hanging of the libertarian. That former proud and vigilant guardian of individual rights was strung up by his own subscribers, betrayed by those who once raised volumes of praise to his eternal glory. 


It is a well-worn cliché: Never trust the ones you love. In the political arena, where demagogues are the rule, ideology and principle are nothing more than talking points. The so-called liberal Democrats will abandon social services and the so-called conservative Republicans will promote unwarranted domestic spying. 

When conservatives of proper libertarian upbringing cannot rise from their overstuffed chairs to cry out against the classic enemy of Big Brother, then the entire conservative movement is rudderless in a sea of confusion. 

Let me be clear: I am no more a libertarian than I am an anarchist. While I find virtue in both ideologies, I also believe in the role of government as a counterbalance to corporate greed. I believe that rampant deregulation leads to massive fraud as it did in the west coast energy crisis.  I believe that anything remotely resembling rigorous enforcement of safety standards would likely have saved twelve coal miners in West Virginia. I believe that laissez faire in environmental policy is directly accountable for hundreds of thousands of deaths annually. I believe that the cesspool of political corruption surrounding the Jack Abramoff scandal is in large part the result of wholesale failure in government accountability. I believe that government has an essential responsibility to protect the powerless -- the working people, the small business, the infirm, the poor, the oppressed, the innovators and entrepreneurs -- from the excesses of corporate monoliths. 

Nevertheless, I respect those who stand firmly on the ground of principle in opposing my beliefs.  When those who presume to stand on principle, however, abandon it because the leader of their party wishes to enforce an unprecedented power grab, I lose all respect. 

The libertarian is dead; long live the demagogue. 

When the president can have a photo-op with Senator John McCain (where is his libertarian pedigree?) and immediately sign a presidential finding that he is not bound to honor the McCain torture ban, then all honest Americans must absorb the shame. 

The defenders of the president in the NSA domestic spying scandal would have us believe that he is only spying on the friends of Al Qaeda. He wants us to take his word on that. He does not want us to remember that his word was not enough when he repeatedly told us that wiretapping required a court order. To put it bluntly, he was lying with the clear intent of lying. He went out of his way to lie. It was one of his standard talking points. 

Never mind, he now wants us to take his word that he is only spying on the friends of Al Qaeda … and their associates. Ah, there’s the rub! Who exactly is associated with Al Qaeda in the mind of the president? Judging by his reaction to the NSA scandal, the whistleblower that revealed his illegal program would top the list. 

Columnist Molly Ivans had it right: With six degrees of separation, we are all related to Al Qaeda. Thus, if you receive an email from someone in Canada, hoping to sell you on the virtues of a software program, and that same someone sent an email to a party in Spain, who checked out Al Jazeera after the Madrid bombing, and the administration has solid evidence that Al Qaeda posts on Al Jazeera, then you are an associate of Al Qaeda. 

Do I have it wrong? Prove it. 

Such a clever president: As long as he can maintain the secrecy of the program, they will never have to prove anything. It begins and ends with “trust me” and the Bill of Rights is relegated to the trash heap for the duration of an endless war. 

Ever wonder if the president probed his Supreme Court nominees on the powers of the executive branch in wartime? I do. If that makes me suspect in the eyes of this president, so be it. I will wear it as a badge of honor. 

I am not a libertarian but when it comes to the judiciary, give me libertarians above all others. The libertarian would rather pluck out his eyes than deny a fundamental right to privacy (the right upon which Roe V. Wade is grounded). On questions of constitutional authority, the libertarian will side with individual rights every time. On issues of executive authority versus individual liberty (the essence of the NSA case), the libertarian path is clear. 

The best hope for the Supreme Court may not be the remote possibility that the president’s final appointment can be stonewalled until the midterm elections (when a change in the balance of power could compel moderation). Rather, it may be that the president and his advisers have misjudged the judicial integrity of their nominees. There may yet be a libertarian hiding in the dark recesses of the psyches of John Roberts and Samuel Alito, waiting for an opportunity to express itself. 

Once they don the robes of the nation’s highest court, they are answerable to no one. They will no longer be advocates. They will no longer be bound by the rulings of their superiors. Alone in the company of solitary conscience, the libertarian may be raised from the dead. 

In that, there is a modicum of hope. 

There is not a single rational being on the planet that really believes the president is legally grounded in the NSA spying case. The constitution is silent on the matter. The authorization for use of force in the war on terror (circa Afghanistan) is not even remotely relevant. If the president can redefine “force” as domestic eavesdropping in perpetuity, then there is absolutely no limit to his self-declared powers and we are no longer governed by the rule of law. 

It comes down to this: Either you believe in the constitutional balance of power and the sanctity of individual rights or you believe in the president. There is no middle ground: Us or them. If you choose the constitution, you are a likely suspect in the war on terror and, by definition, must be considered an associate of our enemies. 

If you consider that twisted logic, try reading the transcripts of Alberto Gonzalez and Condoleezza Rice on wiretapping and torture, respectively. 

Jack Random is the author of Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press) the Jazzman Chronicles, Volumes I and II (
City Lights Books). The Chronicles have been published by CounterPunch, the Albion Monitor, Buzzle, Dissident Voice and others. Visit his website: Random Jack.

Other Articles by Jack Random

* Surrealistic Pillow: The West Virginia Mining Disaster
* Pataki & Bloomberg: How to Bust a Union
* The Imperial President and the NSA Spying Scandal
* France and the Burning Embers of Repression
* The Activist Court & the Neoconservative Agenda
* The Agnew Factor: Clearing the Impeachment Path
* Iraq and New Orleans: The ABCs of Police Lawlessness
* The Age of Catastrophe: Preparing for Disaster
* No Tears for Rehnquist: The Legacy of a Chief Justice
* Zero Tolerance: Bush Gets Tough as New Orleans Suffers
* Hugo Chavez and the American Slug: Pat Robertson’s Call for Assassination
* The Lie of a Strong Economy (Beneath the Towers of Avarice)
* Fooled Again: Major Party Turnabout
* The New War Candidate: Major Paul Hackett for Congress
* Free Judy! The Fine Art of Calling a Bluff
* Executive Blackmail: The Betrayal of Democracy in Haiti
* Blame the Democrats & Move On: The Federalist Court
* Against the Wind: The Inevitable End of the Iraqi Occupation
* London and Madrid: Reflections on the War on Terror
* Judith Miller: The Anti-Hero
* Schizo Scherzo: The Last Waltz
* The Last Throes: The Light at the End of the Tunnel
* Impeach Bush -- US Out Now!
* Recall the Governator
* The Gates of Hell: Occupied Iraq
* May Day: The Rise & Fall of the Middle Class
* The Papal Aristocracy: Confessions of a Nonbeliever
* No Citizen Left Behind
* A Marine Comes Home: The Untold Story of War
* The Compassionate Leader -- In a Time of Crisis
* In Defense of Barry Bonds
* Defending Dan? Rather Not
* David Went to Canada...& Johnny Got His Gun