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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, May 04, 2006

Various items

(updated below)

I will not have time to blog extensively until later today, so here are a few short mid-sized items for now:

(1) The publisher of How Would a Patriot Act?, Working Assets Publishing, has completed the website for the book, which features information about the book, including some recommendations, along with an excerpt from the book -- a .pdf of the full Preface (click "Preface" at the top).

The Preface was actually the most difficult part of the book for me to write, because I had to write about my own experiences rather than write about facts, analysis and arguments (which I vastly prefer to write about). I really didn't even want to write the Preface, but both the Publisher (Jennifer Nix) and the book's editor (Safir Ahmed) all but forced me to write it, insisting that it was necessary to provide some explanatory framework for how and why I was moved, seemingly out of the blue, to write this book. As was true for most of the things (though not all) that we disagreed about, they were right (which was extremely annoying). Most of the people who have read the book thus far have been very enthusiastic about the Preface.

The book tour for the book is going to be June 3-June 29, at least, and there are currently six cities confirmed - New York, Boston, Washington, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. There may be more added, and I will post definitive dates once everything is confirmed.

(2) The right-wing Cato Institute has published an extremely well-documented and scathing condemnation of the Bush administration's multiple abuses of power. Later today, I will post about the entire report (.pdf), which is truly excellent; the Executive Summary says this:

Unfortunately, far from defending the Constitution, President Bush has repeatedly sought to strip out the limits the document places on federal power.

In its official legal briefs and public actions, the Bush administration has advanced a view of federal power that is astonishingly broad, a view that includes:

* a federal government empowered to regulate core political speech—and restrict it greatly when it counts the most: in the days before a federal election;

*a president who cannot be restrained, through validly enacted statutes, from pursuing any tactic he believes to be effective in the war on terror;

* a president who has the inherent constitutional authority to designate American citizens suspected of terrorist activity as "enemy combatants," strip them of any constitutional protection, and lock them up without charges for the duration of the war on terror— in other words, perhaps forever; and,

* a federal government with the power to supervise virtually every aspect of American life, from kindergarten, to marriage, to the grave. President Bush's constitutional vision is, in short, sharply at odds with the text, history, and structure of our Constitution, which authorizes a government of limited powers.


In every single respect, this administration has been devoted to one principle and one principle only -- an expansion of its own power. That is its driving philosophy and its ultimate goal, and it is hardly surprising that a true conservative organization like the Cato Institute ("true conservative" in the sense that they are devoted to limited federal government power, rather than the worship of authoritarian power as Bush followers are) would find this administration anathema to every important political value and principal which this country has.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Bush administration has violated every tenet of this strain of conservatism for the last five years, conservatives will not be permitted to distance themselves from this administration -- as they are transparently and pitifully trying to do now that Bush's presidency is failed and is dying a rapid death (see e.g., this characteristically dishonest attempt by Jonah Goldberg to characterize the two failed Republican Presidents - Nixon and Bush - as "liberals" in order to imply that their failure is not a failure of conservatives; funny how we never heard any of that when The Commander had approval ratings in the 60s). With rare and noble exception, conservatives did not repudiate Bush until very recently. To the contrary, they have vigorously supported and claimed him (while he was popular), and he is their creation. They are and should be stuck with him.

(3) This is one of the dumbest and yet most illustrative paragraphs I've read in awhile, courtesy of the incomparably obsolete relic, Richard Cohen, in his column in today's The Washington Post:

But in this country, anyone can insult the president of the United States. Colbert just did it, and he will not suffer any consequence at all. He knew that going in. He also knew that Bush would have to sit there and pretend to laugh at Colbert's lame and insulting jokes. Bush himself plays off his reputation as a dunce and his penchant for mangling English. Self-mockery can be funny. Mockery that is insulting is not. The sort of stuff that would get you punched in a bar can be said on a dais with impunity. This is why Colbert was more than rude. He was a bully.

I haven't had time to read other blogs today, but I am sure there is ample commentary on this. So I will make just this point: The national media of which Cohen is an integral and zombified part has spent the last five years so petrified of George Bush that they have been unwilling even to investigate, let alone criticize, the claims he and his administration have made. That is why 70% of Americans were permitted to believe -- even six months after we invaded Iraq -- that Saddam personally participated in the planning of 9/11 -- because the media cowered in the corner like meek and passive mice while the administration spewed exaggerated and false rhetoric to justify the war.

But to them, there is something terribly rude and improper about looking in the President's eye and criticizing him. That is so very disrespectful. What country does Stephen Colbert think this is? We don't criticize the President like that. And the idea that Colbert was "a bully" -- because he criticized the most powerful man on earth, who has made the need to be shielded from criticism a virtual religion -- reflects such a mind-bogglingly demented view of the world that it is difficult even to analyze.

What an odd set of values a large portion of this country has adopted. Sending one's fellow citizens to fight in a distant war is somehow the hallmark of strength and courage. But standing up a few feet away from the President of the United States, and delivering very substantive and stinging criticism while knowing that nobody in the room would support you, is an act of uncouth rudeness, even cowardice. The national media is, with few exception, beyond salvation.

UPDATE: Richard Cohen's claim -- echoed by many others -- that there was nothing courageous about Stephen Colbert's criticisms of the President should be contrasted with the still-staggering admission of Elisabeth Bumiller of The New York Times that she, along with her media colleagues, were afraid -- afraid -- to ask the President questions about the justifications for our invasion of Iraq:

I think we were very deferential because … it's live, it's very intense, it's frightening to stand up there. Think about it, you're standing up on prime-time live TV asking the president of the United States a question when the country's about to go to war. There was a very serious, somber tone that evening, and no one wanted to get into an argument with the president at this very serious time.

The "war climate" which the administration worked very hard to maintain meant that most national journalists were petrified of aggressively challenging the Commander-in-Chief during this "time of war" because of fears that they would be pelted with all sorts of accusations from the President's followers (as well as because many of them were marching in lockstep with the President's worldview). Deep down, they know they failed miserably in their journalistic function. Despite that -- really, because of that -- they hate Stephen Colbert for doing what they were supposed to do but were so blatantly unwilling and afraid to do, and so they have to smear his act of courage by tossing up their noses and characterizing it as some very offensive breach of etiquette, even depicting his criticism of the President as being cowardly.

Contrasting Colbert's criticisms voiced directly to the President, with Bumiller's fear-driven posture of being "very deferential" to the President because it's so very "frightening" to question the Leader, is there really any doubt as to which approach is more consistent with what the Founders intended when they guaranteed a free press in order to ensure an adversarial watchdog over the Government?

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