Bush has Crossed the Rubicon and After Alito
Well for those conscious of what is about to befall the fascade of a
democratic republic there are two interesting posts in the Portland
Indy. I would say for many it is too late to get your visas out.
The vast populous is just too unaware or apathetic.
Two posts in Portland Indy Media:
Bush has Crossed the Rubicon
author: Paul Joseph Watson
Dictatorships seldom appear full-fledged but emerge piecemeal. When
Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon with one Roman legion he broke the
tradition that protected the civilian government from victorious
generals and launched the transformation of the Roman Republic into
the Roman Empire. Fearing that Caesar would become a king, the Senate
assassinated him. From the civil wars that followed, Caesar's
grandnephew, Octavian, emerged as the first Roman emperor, Caesar
Two thousand years later in Germany, Adolf Hitler's rise to dictator
from his appointment as chancellor was rapid. Hitler used the
Reichstag fire to create an atmosphere of crisis. Both the judicial
and legislative branches of government collapsed, and Hitler's
decrees became law. The Decree for the Protection of People and State
(Feb. 28, 1933) suspended guarantees of personal liberty and
permitted arrest and incarceration without trial. The Enabling Act
(March 23, 1933) transferred legislative power to Hitler, permitting
him to decree laws, laws moreover that "may deviate from the
The dictatorship of the Roman emperors was not based on an ideology.
The Nazis had an ideology of sorts, but Hitler's dictatorship was
largely personal and agenda-based. The dictatorship that emerged from
the Bolshevik Revolution was based in ideology. Lenin declared that
the Communist Party's dictatorship over the Russian people
rests "directly on force, not limited by anything, not restricted by
any laws, nor any absolute rules." Stalin's dictatorship over the
Communist Party was based on coercion alone, unrestrained by any
limitations or inhibitions.
In this first decade of the 21st century the United States regards
itself as a land of democracy and civil liberty but, in fact, is an
incipient dictatorship. Ideology plays only a limited role in the
emerging dictatorship. The demise of American democracy is largely
the result of historical developments.
Lincoln was the first American tyrant. Lincoln justified his tyranny
in the name of preserving the Union. His extra-legal, extra-
constitutional methods were tolerated in order to suppress Northern
opposition to Lincoln's war against the Southern secession.
The first major lasting assault on the US Constitution's separation
of powers, which is the basis for our political system, came with the
response of the Roosevelt administration to the crisis of the Great
Depression. The New Deal resulted in Congress delegating its
legislative powers to the executive branch. Today when Congress
passes a statute it is little more than an authorization for an
executive agency to make the law by writing the regulations that
Prior to the New Deal, legislation was tightly written to minimize
any executive branch interpretation. Only in this way can law be
accountable to the people. If the executive branch that enforces the
law also writes the law, "all legislative powers" are no longer
vested in elected representatives in Congress. The Constitution is
violated, and the separation of powers is breached.
The principle that power delegated to Congress by the people cannot
be delegated by Congress to the executive branch is the mainstay of
our political system. Until President Roosevelt overturned this
principle by threatening to pack the Supreme Court, the executive
branch had no role in interpreting the law. As Justice John Marshall
Harlan wrote: "That congress cannot delegate legislative power to the
president is a principle universally recognized as vital to the
integrity and maintenance of the system of government ordained by the
Despite seven decades of an imperial presidency that has risen from
the New Deal's breach of the separation of powers, Republican
attorneys, who constitute the membership of the quarter-century-old
Federalist Society, the candidate group for Republican nominees to
federal judgeships, write tracts about the Imperial Congress and the
Imperial Judiciary that are briefs for concentrating more power in
the executive. Federalist Society members pretend that Congress and
the Judiciary have stolen all the power and run away with it.
The Republican interest in strengthening executive power has its
origin in frustration from the constraints placed on Republican
administrations by Democratic congresses. The thrust to enlarge the
President's powers predates the Bush administration but is being
furthered to a dangerous extent during Bush's second term. The
confirmation of Bush's nominee, Samuel Alito, a member of the
Federalist Society, to the Supreme Court will provide five votes in
favor of enlarged presidential powers.
President Bush has used "signing statements" hundreds of times to
vitiate the meaning of statutes passed by Congress. In effect, Bush
is vetoing the bills he signs into law by asserting unilateral
authority as commander-in-chief to bypass or set aside the laws he
signs. For example, Bush has asserted that he has the power to ignore
the McCain amendment against torture, to ignore the law that requires
a warrant to spy on Americans, to ignore the prohibition against
indefinite detention without charges or trial, and to ignore the
Geneva Conventions to which the US is signatory.
In effect, Bush is asserting the powers that accrued to Hitler in
1933. His Federalist Society apologists and Department of Justice
appointees claim that President Bush has the same power to interpret
the Constitution as the Supreme Court. An Alito Court is likely to
agree with this false claim.
This is the great issue that is before the country. But it is pushed
into the background by political battles over abortion and homosexual
rights. Many people fighting to strengthen the executive think they
are fighting against legitimizing sodomy and murder in the womb. They
are unaware that the real issue is that America is on the verge of
elevating its president above the law.
Bush Justice Department official and Berkeley law professor John Yoo
argues that no law can restrict the president in his role as
commander-in-chief. Thus, once the president is at war - even a vague
open-ended "war on terror" - Bush's Justice Department says the
president is free to undertake any action in pursuit of war,
including the torture of children and indefinite detention of
The commander-in-chief role is probably sufficiently elastic to
expand to any crisis, whether real or fabricated. Thus has the US
arrived at the verge of dictatorship.
This development has little to do with Bush, who is unlikely to be
aware that the Constitution is experiencing its final rending on his
watch. America's descent into dictatorship is the result of
historical developments and of old political battles dating back to
President Nixon being driven from office by a Democratic Congress.
There is today no constitutional party. Both political parties, most
constitutional lawyers, and the bar associations are willing to set
aside the Constitution whenever it interferes with their agendas.
Americans have forgotten the prerequisites for freedom, and those
pursuing power have forgotten what it means when it falls into other
hands. Americans are very close to losing their constitutional system
and civil liberties. It is paradoxical that American democracy is the
likely casualty of a "war on terror" that is being justified in the
name of the expansion of democracy.
found at http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2006/01/331994.shtml
After Alito: What Happened? What Now?
author: Danny Schechter, Mediachannel.org
New York, January 15: "It was a good week for Republicans," chuckled
the New York Times house conservative David Books with a s-hit eating
grin as he welcomed the likely confirmation of Judge Samuel Alito Jr.
Friday night on the PBS News Hour. His "liberal" debating partner
Mark Shields was there to agree in yet another PBS program cleaving
to the right while giving the appearance of being in the center.
January 16, 2006
The Judge handled himself well, said Brooks. He was not the angry
ideologue pictured by the Democrats.
Shields agreed expressing admiration for his "judicial temperament."
And so, in media outlet after media outlet, another Administration-
supporting consensus was reached, in part, because of they way media
framed the story.
They had bought and sold the pre-hearing hype that this would be the
ultimate ideological "showdown" like some final round of Wrestle
Mania. When Alito was left standing after what was falsely pictured
as his race through a gauntlet, he was proclaimed a winner.
THE DEMOCRATS WERE PREDICTABLE
The Democrats were predictable, baiting Alito, and trying to use
comments he made in the 1980's as well as his dense judicial record
against him. Like many Generals, they were fighting the last war—the
one against Court nominee Robert Bork who took on his attackers but
whose arrogance and argumentative approach did him in.
Significantly, when Bork himself was asked to comment on Alito's well
choreographed but evasive performance, he said, "The object nowadays
is to get confirmed, People will say pretty much -- or avoid saying
pretty much in order to get confirmed."
Didn't the Democrats realize that the Republicans would anticipate
their knee-jerk approach, and then neutralize its dated and poorly
executed confrontation strategy? Why weren't they on alert for dirty
tricks like the phony crying spell by Alito's wife publicized by the
very firm that promoted the Swift Boat veterans who smeared John
What world were they in? Weren't they aware that Alito would be well
coached (including by Senator Graham, a member of their own
Committee), trained not to play to type and then to conceal more than
reveal? He followed the lead of Judge Roberts by saying as little as
possible and acting as thoughtful and reasonable as he could.
What the Republicans and their legions of spinners and echo chamber
message disseminators understood—and the Democrats and many activists
do not---is the hearings themselves are not really about issues, but
impressions, not about politics but personalities, not about reality
A MEDIA EXERCISE
They are a show and tell exercise put on for the media and through
the media. They have become exercises in calculated denial and
"Senate hearings on Supreme Court nominees are close to the point of
having no point," argues Martin Flaherty, a professor of
constitutional law and history at Fordham Law School." The nominees
say nothing, and the Senate doesn't make them say anything. It was
evident in the Roberts hearings [for chief justice] but is reaching
absurd levels with Alito."
Writing in the Baltimore Sun, Stephen Kiehl and Abigail Tucker
dissect the GOP strategy. They call it "Practicing the art of saying
"Alito has been practicing, with varying degrees of success, the art
of the non-answer answer," they explained. "Employed by politicians,
business executives and others facing public scrutiny, the non-answer
has become particularly routine to those seeking judicial
confirmation since 1987."
Despite this reality, many bloggers and others on the left urged the
Senators to focus on the details, play it tough (but not necessarily
smart). They were peeved when the Senators didn't crucify him. Being
hostile and aggressive on small points can only be effective when you
also recognize how the nature of the game has changed.
THE HEARINGS WERE A FARCE
With all their erudition, research and preening for the cameras, the
Democratic Senators never laid a glove on Alito in an 18-hour ordeal.
Rather than excite the public and incite outrage, they tuned out the
audience by turning the hearing into a hard-to-follow graduate
seminar in legal philosophy understood mostly by lawyers. They even
bored themselves. Senator Biden asked an eleven minute question.
Senator Leahy said he had to stop himself from snoring.
Yes its true, many important questions went unasked and most went
unanswered. Alito was so vague that he wouldn't even endorse his own
state's favorite son, Bruce Springsteen. When asked if he was a fan
of the progressive rocker he would only say, "I am to some degree,
yes." May I ask, "To what degree?" (I can't imagine Sam with fist in
air singing "Born to Run.")
The Democrats third degree failed, in large part, because the big
media did not help the public understand the issues or do much
digging on their own. A study of press coverage by the Progress
Center found inaccurate reporting and virtually no on-air commentary
by progressives. Alito, who couldn't remember what he didn't want to
remember was never really taken to task. He was taken instead at face
value. His references to having an "open mind" were given a pass.
If we had a better media we would not be facing the Bush takeover of
the Supreme Court.
So what now? On Saturday President Bush called on the Senate to
confirm him quickly, echoing the media consensus claiming the judge
approached the law in a "thoughtful, fair, and open-minded way" and
would not impose his personal views. The Senate is not expected to
vote on the Alito nomination for about two weeks but a stop Alito
filibuster is unlikely. This pathetic Judge seems a shoo-in.
Nevertheless, some on the anti-Alito left are blowing their bugles
and cranking up the volume of their rhetoric. One writes:
"What team every won by deciding at the end of the first quarter that
it wasn't worth playing the rest of the game because they were
already behind? Do you not understand that WE are the majority? Turn
off your cable television. Pay no attention to corporate media
propagandists who relentlessly sell you on your own defeatism...
Dedicate your lives for the next two weeks to saving our country.
Dedicate your lives to getting as many people as possible to call
By all means, let your senators know how you feel but also understand
that THEY control the Senate. And THEY control media. Understand that
Democrats and their supporters have to do a better job of using
media, not just focusing on beltway events. They have to rebuild the
base for progressive politics just as the GOP built its base. That
will take grass roots organizing, a more sophisticated communications
strategy and new media platforms.
The Senators we have—including the three GOP-lite Democrats who voted
for John--"he's so good lucking and All-American"--Roberts—reflect
the compromised state of the party and the weakness of its approach.
It can't win because it has already lost—its values, vision, unity
More than lobbying is needed to resuscitate its corpse and renew our
democracy. Media reform must become part of the equation.
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
News Dissector Danny Schechter edits Mediachannel.org. His new books
are "The Death of the Media" and "When News Lies: Media Complicity
and the Iraq War." See newsdissector.org/store.htm. Comments to
found at http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2006/01/332008.shtml
To subscribe, send an email to: