Erosion of Liberties

23:49 Sun 01 Apr 2007
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Glenn Greenwald highlights the fact that neither Mitt Romney nor Rudy Giuliani oppose the idea that the executive can arbitrarily detain people without trial. Romney wanted to talk to “smart lawyers” before deciding the issue, while Giuliani says that he’d use the power “infrequently”.

Wow. Clearly this whole “presidency-as-absolute-dictatorship” thing has gotten out of hand. Because, as many people pointed out when the Military Commissions Act was passed, removing habeas corpus protections makes a mockery of the idea that we’re in a functional democracy.

Why? Well, because the President can imprison anyone. Sure, he might have to call them an “enemy combatant” first, but what other restrictions are there?

This is where we get to the “common sense” rebuttal, the claim that, well, the President “won’t do that”. Except where it’s really justified, of course. Why not build in some restrictions to make sure it can only be used when necessary (which would, rapidly, turn out to mean that it would never need to be used)? Well, because we have to “trust” the President. In other words, we have to trust the authority even as the authority is rejecting controls that would compel it to act reasonably… hardly a trust-inspiring action, that.

The President probably won’t start jailing prominent Democrats without trial anytime soon. But what about jailing people who can’t cause a major political outcry? The way things are now, they’re on their own—not just in the sense that it’s tough for the downtrodden to fight unjust persecution, but that they would have almost literally no legal recourse (rather than theoretical or prohibitively-expensive legal recourse).

Giuliani wants this power to remain so that he can use it “infrequently”. Romney isn’t sure, and wants to talk to some lawyers first, meaning that he’s either being disingenuous, that he’s looking for a way to make the stance seem more palatable, or (most charitably) that he’s foolishly paid no attention at all to the debates about the MCA and has also never considered the importance of remaining free from unchecked executive power—and has no instincts or capacity for thought that tell him immediately how objectionable and repugnant this idea of executive power is. None of that makes him look like a good candidate…

As for Giuliani, I think he’s a scary, power-hungry authoritarian, and this does nothing to push me from that opinion.

(Incidentally, I’m pretty sure this isn’t an April Fools’s Day joke, sadly.)

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