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Hullabaloo


Friday, June 06, 2014

 
How can you trust these people to follow the constitution when they keep poking holes in it?

by digby



I keep thinking about Lindsay Graham's grave warnings about Obama being impeached over Guantanamo prisoners. Various little threads of memory keep weaving their way into my consciousness, of things said by Graham and others over the years about hostages and impeachment and lying to congress and the "rule 'o law":

For instance this very stirring speech keeps coming to mind:
Now the rule of law is one of the great achievements of our civilization, for the alternative is the rule of raw power. We here today are the heirs of 3,000 years of history in which humanity slowly, painfully, at great cost evolved a form of politics in which law, not brute force, is the arbiter of our public destinies.

We are the heirs of the Ten Commandments and the Mosaic Law, a moral code for a free people, who, having been liberated from bondage, sought in law a means to avoid falling back into the habits of slaves.

We are the heirs of Roman Law, the first legal system by which peoples of different cultures, languages, races and religions came to live together in a form of political community.

We are the heirs of the Magna Carta, by which the free men of England began to break the arbitrary and unchecked power of royal absolutism. We're the heirs of a long tradition of parliamentary development in which the rule of law gradually came to replace royal prerogative as a means for governing a society of free men and women.

HYDE: We're the heirs of 1776 and of an epic moment in human affairs, when the founders of this Republic pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honors. Think of that -- sacred honor -- to the defense of the rule of law.

We are the heirs of a hard-fought war between the states, which vindicated the rule of law over the appetites of some for owning others. We are the heirs of the ah century's great struggles against totalitarianism, in which the rule of law was defended at immense cost against the worst tyrannies in human history.

The phrase "rule of law" is no pious aspiration from a civics textbook. The rule of law is what stands between all of us and the arbitrary exercise of power by the state. The rule of law is the safeguard of our liberties. The rule of law is what allows us to live our freedom in ways that honor the freedom of others, while strengthening the common good.

The rule of law is like a three-legged stool. One leg is an honest judge, the second leg is an ethical bar, and the third is an enforceable oath. All three are indispensable to avoid political collapse.

In 1838, Abraham Lincoln celebrated the rule of law before the Young Men's Lyceum of Springfield, Illinois, and linked it to the perpetuation of American liberties and American political institutions. Listen to Lincoln, from 1838: "Let every American, every lover of liberty, every well-wisher to his posterity, swear by the blood of the revolution never to violate in the least particular the laws of the country; and never to tolerate their violation by others. As the patriots of '76 did to support the Declaration of Independence, so the support of the Constitution and laws, let every American pledge his life, his property and his sacred honor. Let every man remember that to violate the law is to trample on the blood of his father and to tear the character of his own and his children's liberty.

"Let reverence for the laws be breathed by every American mother to the lisping babe that prattles on her lap. Let it be taught in the schools, seminaries, colleges. Let it be written in primers, spelling books, almanacs. Let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls and enforced in the halls of -- in the courts of justice."

So said Lincoln.

My colleagues, we have been sent here to strengthen and defend the rule of law -- not to weaken, not to attenuate it, not to disfigure it. This is not a question of perfection; it's a question of foundations.

This isn't a matter of setting the bar too high; it's a matter of securing the basic structure of our freedom -- which is the rule of law.

That was Henry Hyde, head House Manager on the grave matter of Bill Clinton lying under oath about a blow job. He sounds like a very principled man, correct?

Well, as was pointed out at the time, in the past, Hyde did believe there were "exceptions" to the rule of law:
"All of us at some time confront conflicts between rights and duties, between choices that are evil and less evil, and one hardly exhausts moral imagination by labeling every untruth and every deception an outrage. We have all been sermonized how terrible lying is, and that is a given….But "the end does not justify the means"–it just seems to me is too simplistic when you have to deal with some very difficult, complex moral situations"
That was Henry Hyde defending the Iran arms for hostages deal that clearly violated the law. He further explained that you could lie under oath if it was really, really important.

Senator Lindsey Graham, former impeachment manager, informed us this week that any other attempts to release prisoners from Guantanamo would be met with impeachment. (I'm guessing they know that impeachment will not hurt them politically --- after all Graham became a senator and George W. Bush became president. Just saying. Nobody cared.)

He's also a real stickler for the "rule 'o law", just like his fellow Republican Henry Hyde. Well, unless it's really, really important to violate it:
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said it would be “crazy” to exempt Qaeda suspects who are Americans and are arrested inside the country from battlefield-style detention. He argued that, to stop other attacks, they must be interrogated without the protections of the civilian criminal justice system.

Citizens who are suspected of joining Al Qaeda are opening themselves up “to imprisonment and death,” Mr. Graham said, adding, “And when they say, ‘I want my lawyer,’ you tell them: ‘Shut up. You don’t get a lawyer. You are an enemy combatant, and we are going to talk to you about why you joined Al Qaeda.’ ”

Because we just "know" if they are guilty of this, correct? He went on to say this after the Boston bomber --- and American citizen --- was caught:

Now that the suspect is in custody, the last thing we should want is for him to remain silent," the two Senators said in the statement. "It is absolutely vital the suspect be questioned for intelligence gathering purposes. We need to know about any possible future attacks which could take additional American lives. The least of our worries is a criminal trial which will likely be held years from now."

"Under the Law of War we can hold this suspect as a potential enemy combatant not entitled to Miranda warnings or the appointment of counsel. Our goal at this critical juncture should be to gather intelligence and protect our nation from further attacks."

The least of our worries is "the rule of law." We could be in danger! To how many other situations could you apply that logic?

I'm not easily shocked by these people anymore but these comments by a US Senator strike me as so outrageous that I can hardly believe he's still in the Senate. (I'm stunned that he's a lawyer.) But the ease with which he spouts these ideas as vif they are perfectly normal should make any critic of us civil liberties cranks stop and think for a moment. Is it possible that he's an outlier? Or are there a lot of people in government who think that "the rule of law" is a nice construct to be dredged up when its politically expedient to make soaring speeches on the floor of the congress but which can be discarded any time they think it's "necessary" to keep us safe? I'm going to guess that Lindsay Graham is not alone.

How can we possibly trust people like this to follow the constitution? They openly portray it as full of holes as a chunk of swiss cheese.


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