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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.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Various items

A few short items of note:

(1) Does President Bush support the legislation passed by the Senate on Thursday making English the "national language" of the United States?

Alberto Gonzales says "no." According to him, Bush opposes such a measure and always has:

President George W. Bush has long opposed making English the country's national language, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said on Friday, the day after the Senate voted to do so. . . .

Gonzales did not directly address Bush's position on the controversial amendment because the Senate has not yet voted on the whole bill. But he said that Bush has in the past rejected such efforts.

"The president has never supported making English the national language," Gonzales said after meeting with state and local officials in Texas to discuss cooperation on enforcement of immigration laws.

But Press Secretary Tony Snow disagrees, insisting that Bush does support making English the national language:

WHITE HOUSE President Bush is backing the Senate's move to get immigrants to learn English.

Press Secretary Tony Snow reports the president agrees with two amendments that senators tacked onto the immigration bill yesterday. One would make English the "national" language. The other calls it a "common and unifying language." Snow says both are "consistent with" Bush's views.

(h/t Hot Air). The Bush administration can't even decide on the same day what the President's position is on an issue of great significance to his base. Immigration was supposed to be the rallying cry for re-solidifying support from Bush's base, but he has bungled the issue so badly that it has done nothing but alienate his base further. The staggering ineptitude which characterizes this administration's approach to every issue of governance used to magically disappear when it came to electioneering and political strategy, but no longer. They seem as politically hapless these days as they have been at governing.

(2) National Review Editor Rich Lowry can't believe that John McCain, whom Lowry notes is a "war hero," was treated so disrespectfully when he spoke last night at the New School in Manhattan. Lowry finds it "incredible" and "amazing" that a war heo would be subjected to heckling when giving a highly controversial speech praising a highly unpopular war.

Apparently, heckling a war hero during a speech is a despicable act. But it's perfectly OK to waive purple band-aids at decorated, wounded war veterans; and it's fine to accuse them of being soft on Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein even after they voted for the Iraq invasion and co-sponsored creation of the Homeland Security Department; and there is nothing wrong with going to the floor of the House and labeling a war hero a "coward" and then following it up with a year's worth of accusations that they are also a traitor. Calling into question a war hero's patriotism, their courage, the seriousness of their war wounds, and their allegiance to the United States is all perfectly fine. Just don't boo them at a speech.

Oddly, Rich Lowry's Chivalrous Code of Conduct for how a War Hero should be treated wasn't much in evidence when he penned this column back in July, 2004 -- entitled "Max Cleland, Liberal Victim -- in which Lowry snidely dismissed complaints about how Cleland was treated during his election defeat with tough-guy, suck-it-up, politics-is-tough sermons like this:

If you can't criticize the Senate votes of a senator in a Senate race, what can you criticize? . . . If John Kerry wants to surround himself with veterans like Max Cleland, fine — their country owes them a lot. But, please, stop the whining.

Today, though, Lowry is effetely lamenting the fact that McCain was booed at a highly politicized college by liberal students when McCain praised the Iraq War. John McCain is running for President, but he's a war hero, so no booing him.

(3) That Gen. Hayden shares the administration's claim of presidential lawbreaking powers has long been evident, and it is but one reason why he is such a poor choice to lead the CIA. But this exchange, highlighted by today's Editorial in the Washington Post, is independently indefensible:

AT THE SENATE intelligence committee hearing Thursday on Gen. Michael V. Hayden's nomination to head the CIA, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) asked the nominee a simple question: Is "waterboarding" an acceptable interrogation technique? Gen. Hayden responded: "Let me defer that to closed session, and I would be happy to discuss it in some detail." That was the wrong answer. The right one would have been simple: No.

Last year Congress banned cruel, degrading and inhumane treatment of detainees; one of its explicit aims was to stop the CIA's use of waterboarding, which induces an excruciating sensation of drowning and is considered by most human rights organizations to constitute torture. So why couldn't Gen. Hayden say clearly that the technique is now off-limits?

The American people, through their Congress, decided overwhelmingly when the McCain anti-torture amendment was enacted into law that we do not want to be a country which uses interrogation techniques such as waterboarding. In light of the president's signing statement reserving the right to violate that law, followed up by anonymous administration officials expressly claiming the president's power to do so, whether the administration intends to obey this law is a pressing issue, and there is no excuse for Hayden's refusing to answer that question publicly.

The question amounts to nothing more than an inquiry as to whether Hayden intends to obey the law as CIA Director. Although the Bush administration's claimed right to break the law amazingly compels that such a question has to be asked, there is nothing secret about it. Americans have the right to know if the nominated CIA Director intends to follow the law.

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