How Would a Patriot Act?

A while back I added a link to my blogroll for Glenn Greenwald’s blog, Unclaimed Territory. Glenn’s political blogging is second to none, and I’ve been impressed seeing him go from a total unknown six months ago to being one of the most widely read progressive bloggers (Senator Feingold even quoted his blog in the Senate last month). Part of the reason I’m so impressed is that, while the political blogosphere has become very, very crowded over the past few years, the top-tier of political blogs (in terms of popularity) hasn’t changed much, and Glenn has managed to break through into that top tier. One of the main reasons I gave up regular political blogging a while back was that it was simply too hard to get heard. But Glenn’s blog demonstrates that if your writing is consistently compelling and informative, people will pay attention, and your words can have very real influence.

Glenn has written a short and inexpensive book, How Would A Patriot Act?, and it was made available for pre-order on amazon.com yesterday. In just 24 hours it has moved to #1 on Amazon’s Top Sellers list. I’ve added a link to it in my sidebar, as I’d like to do my part in keeping it high on that list. I haven’t seen the book yet, but it sounds like it addresses the same issues as his blog. I can’t emphasize enough how important I think it will be in getting people to understand the dangers the Bush Administration presents to the long-term health of our democracy, as the mainstream media are simply not discussing the Constitutional principals that are at stake (see here, here, and here). It’s also remarkable that the press has chosen to ignore the Bush administration’s utter dishonesty in its statements concering the warrantless NSA wiretapping program, both in Bush’s public statements and in his administration’s dealings with Congress. If you know me, you know I don’t throw around these kinds of accusations lightly (one of the maddening things blogging about the Bush administration is that even though they’ve taken our politics to such an extreme, the media treats it all like a “he said, she said” debate, and moderates like me end up sounding shrill). This is not a typical Democrats vs. Republicans, left vs. right policy debate, this is about the very nature of our government. Here’s Glenn’s summary:

What I hope will be the book’s principal impact is to cast a very bright light on the fact that all of these Bush administration scandals which are always discussed in isolation — lawless detentions, secret prisons, the use of torture, illegal eavesdropping, etc. — are merely symptoms of a profound political crisis which our country faces, brought about by the fact that this administration has adopted radical theories of power whereby the President literally and expressly claims the right to act without restraint, including those imposed by law. The powers seized by this president are exactly those powers about which the founders most urgently and explicitly warned, and which they sought, first and foremost, to prevent.

A substantial portion of the book is devoted to highlighting the ways in which the administration has used rank fear-mongering and an endless exploitation of the terrorist threat to attempt to obscure and justify these abuses. Those manipulative tactics have not only enabled them to embrace these most un-American powers right out in the open, but they are also threatening to alter, perhaps irreversibly, our national character.

Perhaps most importantly, the book documents the fact that even when all other intended checks on government excesses fail — when the media, the Congress and the courts are co-opted or are otherwise neutralized — Americans always have the ability, inherent in our system of government, to put a stop to abuses and excesses, provided they choose to exercise that power. But to do so, it is necessary that it first be understood just how radical and dangerous our government has become under this administration, and making the case that we have arrived at exactly that point is the primary purpose of the book.

Demonstrating to Americans how radical and lawless this administration has become is not difficult — the undisputed facts make the case by themselves. But the national media barely discusses these issues at all, let alone highlights them. For that reason, I’ve been arguing that there is no more important objective than persuading Americans of the profound crisis our country faces as a result of this administration’s radical theories of its own power.

Digby has written a review of the book, and he emphasizes the key point that this is not a simple set of policy disputes whose importance will fade with time as so many others have. This is about the future of our government and our country:

This is an issue with which every American, regardless of party, should be concerned. The founders knew that relying on the good will of men in power is stupid and we are seeing their predictions come true before our very eyes. The modern Republican leadership may currently have a monopoly on authoritarian impulses, but they are by no means the only people in this country who could be seduced by this Republican notion of executive authority. The constitution is what protects all Americans from the dark side of human nature when it has power over others, regardless of party or political philosophy. Those of us who worry about this usurpation of the constitution and degradation of the Bill of Rights know that this is not a passing fashion that will easily be tucked back into its former shape. Once you allow powerful men to seize power it’s awfully hard to persuade their successors to give it back.

…Unless we insist upon accountability for what these people have done, I fear that the country will not be able to recover. People need to see that our system of government can not only survive such assaults on its integrity, but that justice and the rule of law will reassert themselves under responsible leadership. It must be publicly demonstrated that this doctrine of unlimited presidential authority is unacceptable and Unamerican.

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