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I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Cornered rats

There is a palpable increase in the level of extremism and desperation among Bush followers as the Commander in Chief's approval ratings fall lower and lower and as the views which Americans have of both him and his party become more hostile. This is going to be a significant dynamic -- as their power slips further and further away, Bush followers are going to resort to increasingly radical and rage-fueled measures to keep it. Here are just a couple of illustrative examples in the past 24 hours:

(1) Paul at Powerline calls for the impeachment of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Powerline's John complained about a speech Ginsburg gave in South Africa in which she explained the reasoning as to why Supreme Court Justices, in extremely limited circumstances, cite foreign law in their judicial opinions. John proclaimed the speech to be "reprehensible" and "far removed [] from American laws and traditions." Paul, however, thought that she should not only be criticized, but punished:

It won't happen, of course, but I think there's a case to be made for impeaching Justice Ginsburg.

Impeaching disobedient federal judges is definitely something that is on the minds of Bush followers. At the confirmation hearings of Sam Alito, Sen. Coburn questioned Alito on whether he thought a judge who referenced foreign law in a judicial opinion could be removed from office under the constitutional "good behavior" clause. Coburn said: "I very strongly and adamantly feel that it [citing foreign law in a judicial opinion] violates the good behavior, which is mentioned as part of the qualifications and the maintenance of that position."

All of this is precisely the danger which Sandra Day O'Connor warned about in a speech she gave this month:

Sandra Day O'Connor, a Republican-appointed judge who retired last month after 24 years on the supreme court, has said the US is in danger of edging towards dictatorship if the party's rightwingers continue to attack the judiciary.

In a strongly worded speech at Georgetown University, reported by National Public Radio and the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, Ms O'Connor took aim at Republican leaders whose repeated denunciations of the courts for alleged liberal bias could, she said, be contributing to a climate of violence against judges.

Ms O'Connor, nominated by Ronald Reagan as the first woman supreme court justice, declared: "We must be ever-vigilant against those who would strong-arm the judiciary."

That's what the world of Bush followers looks like. Reporters should be thrown into prison. Citizens should be removed from political events for wearing political t-shirts. The President has the right to break the law for our own good. Politicians who criticize the Administration are traitors and should be imprisoned, or worse. And Supreme Court Justices should be impeached -- or worse. Does any of that sound like America to you?

And, oh - it's vital that we fight The Terrorists so that we don't lose our freedoms. And the principal objective of our foreign policy is to run around teaching other countries how to be democratic and free.

(2) In a post condemning Feingold's censure resolution, Jeff Goldstein predicts that the U.S. is headed for another civil war -- at least he hopes so:

But then, today’s liberal-Democrats are nothing but opportunistic and increasingly reprehensible tin-plated Macchiavellians; to many of these people, rhetoric trumps truth; spin is paramount, and power is all.

Never before in my lifetime did I find it even remotely possible that our country could fight another civil war. But I’m beginning to think that a (non-violent) civil war is coming—and that, frankly, it needs to happen. How it transpires, I have no idea—though I suspect migration patterns and a strong move to re-affirm federalist principles could provide the groundwork.

The sentiments underlying Jeff's hopes for a civil war are found in the Comments section. In response to a commenter of his who pointed out that yet another formerly pro-war Bush follower (Greg Djerejian at Belgravia Dispatch) has acknowledged his error in supporting the war, Jeff relieved himself with this outburst:

Me, I say fuck it. Surrender. I’m tired of hearing all the bitching and whining from those who, had there been a 24 hour news cycle and a media like we are now blessed with, would have called for us to pull out of WWII on a thousand occasions. Which is cool. I look great in ash.

Jeff thinks he's going to be zapped into ash if we withdraw from Iraq. For people who have been driven to that level of personal fear and irrationality, is it really a surprise that they will start screaming for the removal of federal judges, the imprisonment of investigative journalists, and "another" American civil war - just for starters?

George Bush's Presidency is disintegrating in front of our eyes. And the Republican Party which he has dominated and controlled for the last five years is extremely weak and fragile. But they are not going to just fade quietly into the night.

Many of them have become convinced -- or convinced themselves -- that it is literally a matter of their immediate and personal survival that the country be controlled by Republicans devoted to the neoconservative mindset. Many of them actually believe that if those who deviate from that worldview gain political power, that they will be irradiated or blown up by Al Qaeda. And then still others are just so filled with rage and contempt for "liberals" (meaning anyone who is not a Bush supporter) that those sentiments are, by themselves, sufficient to push them into extreme and irrational thought as they lose more and more power.

Bush followers first gained power as part of an ugly and raucous fight. There will be few limits on what many of them will be willing, and eager, to do in order to hold onto it. Removing dissident judges, imprisoning political opponents, and calling for a "civil war" is a nice start.

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