Thursday, March 07, 2013

A Blank Check Is Not A Good Thing

You know Rand Paul is on to something when The Wall Street Journal editorializes "If Mr. Paul wants to be taken seriously he needs to do more than pull political stunts that fire up impressionable libertarian kids in their college dorms... he needs to know what he's talking about."  Evidently, the Journal's editorial page, often seeming libertarian and hostile to big government, has nary a concern about principle while it fronts for corporate interests.

We learned also that the editors, aside from defending the interests of the 1% faithfully, can't resist slamming the Obama Administration- even when it agrees with one of its policies.   As the Kentucky Senator commendably droned on for nearly 13 hours about the the right of a President to order the killing of an American citizen on American soil for whatever reason he chooses, the editors of the Journal wrote

Calm down, Senator. Mr. Holder is right, even if he doesn't explain the law very well. The U.S. government cannot randomly target American citizens on U.S. soil or anywhere else. What it can do under the laws of war is target an "enemy combatant" anywhere at anytime, including on U.S. soil. This includes a U.S. citizen who is also an enemy combatant. The President can designate such a combatant if he belongs to an entity—a government, say, or a terrorist network like al Qaeda—that has taken up arms against the United States as part of an internationally recognized armed conflict. [...]

The Journal is convinced "the U.S. government cannot randomly target American citizens on U.S. soil."  Yet, given the absence of a response by the Administration to the request of Senators for an explanation of the legal basis for drone strikes, it is unclear that the White House would not claim nearly unlimited authority, nor that it wouldn't exercise it covertly.

Probably not this President.  Probably.  In early February, Krystal (which should be "Crystal") Ball commented on MSNBC

I voted for President Obama because I trust his values and his judgment, and I believe that he is a fundamentally responsible actor.  Without gratuitously slamming ex-President Bush, I think he displayed extraordinary lapses in judgment in executing his primary responsibility as commander-in-chief, and put troops in harm’s way imprudently...

President Obama would have exercised better judgment and he has exercised better judgment.  What would George W. Bush do? That’s our standard? We would never allow a power to the presidency that we wouldn’t feel comfortable giving to George W. Bush?

Yes, that is, or rather should be, our standard. That's why we have checks and balances enshrined in the United States Constitution.    Were we confident all our leaders would be above reproach- strong and gentle and kind, possessed of Christ-like judgement- we wouldn't need restraints on Executive power.

One of the checks on the power of government over the individual is is due process. And one of the checks on Executive, relative to legislative, power is the authority to declare war.  The Journal claimed the federal government "under the laws of war" may target an enemy combatant' anywhere at anytime, including on U.S. soil."  But although a declaration of war against terrorists evidently is constitutionally permissible, it has not been convenient for either President Bush or President Obama to pursue a declaration of war against "terrorists," "Al Qaeda," or "terrorism."

Until it does, actions cannot be justified on the basis of the U.S. being involved in "war."  This is a government of laws, not of men.  Krystal Ball and a few others may be crushed to learn that Barack Obama will not be President forever, and may be replaced by someone not "a fundamentally responsible actor."  Admittedly, even in the absence of this Administration claiming extraordinary power, the next Repub Administration will do so. But if a free pass is not given to this President, a claim of precedence will be without merit.

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