As fall weather become more common, it's easy to get lost in the beauty of our surroundings. We live in a country whose natural glory often lulls us into a false sense of well being. That is unless you're a member of arguably one of the worst group of elected officials that we've ever seen in this country and are facing the prospect of losing your election.
In one last attempt at fear mongering, the real Beltway Bandits have passed detainee legislation that will likely be remembered as a low point of American government.
I like the comments in by Andrew Cohen in his Washington Post article, subtitled "The Ball is Now in the Supremes' Court." I hope the Supreme Court stands tall when faced with this challenge.
I wonder what the Justices are thinking this morning as they read and hear and see coverage of the passage of the new anti-terror law. I wonder if some of them see it, as many others do, as an affront to their own authority to determine and protect the rights of individuals. I wonder if some of them already are thinking of ways in which to discount Congress' effort to take away from all future detainees, including legal residents here in the States, the right to challenge their detention in federal court. And I wonder if some of the Justices understand that they, too, will be judged by history in large part upon how they react to this legislation.
We're at an interesting point in our history. Will we swing back from the excesses of these people who are protecting us by attempting to accumulate excessive power in the Presidency? How far are we from it being hard to even say something like that before getting in trouble with the powers that be?
The NY Times had an interesting article this morning, "Pirates of the Mediterranean" which talks about how the checks and balances in the ancient Roman Constitution were given up in a moment of fear. Robert Harris, the author, wonders from Kingsbury, England if the same thing isn't happening in America.
Those of us who are not Americans can only look on in wonder at the similar ease with which the ancient rights and liberties of the individual are being surrendered in the United States in the wake of 9/11. The vote by the Senate on Thursday to suspend the right of habeas corpus for terrorism detainees, denying them their right to challenge their detention in court; the careful wording about torture, which forbids only the inducement of â€œseriousâ€ physical and mental suffering to obtain information; the admissibility of evidence obtained in the United States without a search warrant; the licensing of the president to declare a legal resident of the United States an enemy combatant â€” all this represents an historic shift in the balance of power between the citizen and the executive.
Anyone who has taken the time to study history knows how rarely any good has come from giving government more power. It's amazing to me that the very folks who campaigned on government being bad have spent their time in office consolidating government power in the hands of the executive branch.
It's a dangerous situation, but hopefully the electorate won't be fooled this time, and the Supreme Court will draw a line in the sand.