Sunday, December 25, 2005

Same as it Ever Was

It seems I'm not the only one to see broad parallels between our present age and the Civil War era.
In subduing the Confederacy, Lincoln took his bearings by his constitutional duty to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution." Though this is the subject for another day, it should be noted that, given the Supreme Court's handiwork in the Dred Scott case, he was not an advocate of judicial supremacy. As president and commander-in-chief, he suspended habeas corpus, used martial law, instituted military trials, and exercised power to the limits of his constitutional authority in a manner that illuminates the loose nature of those limits when confronted by necessity. Yet Lincoln preserved the rule of law and became the Great Liberator.
PowerLine blog has been on my regular reading list for quite a while now.

What bothers me about the New York Times stories on the NSA is that they have yet to prove any harm coming to someone from the allegations. As they themselves admitted, they sat on the first story for a year before publication. In that time, they apparently were unable to find anyone who had been violated by the NSA.

It seems that the NYT is shocked, just shocked!, to find out that the US government, in a time of war, is spying on people, some of them Americans. They are whipping furiously, trying to turn their nugget of sugar into a mountain of cotton candy. But given that Bush's poll numbers are now cracking fifty percent, it would seem that the American public isn't buying what they're selling.

Now, I'm no fan of government spying. But it has yet to be shown that anyone, much less Bush himself, did anything illegal, simply because they could and not because they had reason to believe in something nefarious first. It's being presented to the public as Presidential whim and fiat when the case more correctly appears to be one of acknowledging limits, taking specific steps in specific cases to bypass those limits, and documenting the whole thing for accountability's sake.

Find me cases where the President used a government agency to harrass and crush his enemies -- as Clinton did with the IRS -- and I'll be angry. But right now, it's just more of the same partisan noise. And it looks like many Americans recognise that.

The problem is, as always, that we create powerful positions and laws and tools. When bureaucrats try to exercise those powers and find themselves frustrated, they want more. It has been ever thus. It's not a partisan problem, it's a government problem. The solution isn't more laws and tools aimed at political enemies and supporters, but fewer tools with more power in them.

A willingness to accept that sometimes a life of freedom and liberty is fraught with danger and risk must replace the "take care of me, I'm scared" mentality being pushed by the ignorant, the cowardly and the crafty. I'm not sure that most present-day Americans are that kind of people, though, and so there you are.

If you want someone to take care of you, you have to give them power. And if you want someone to watch over the guardian, then you need to give away even more power. It's just that simple.

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