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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.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Various items

(1) Harvard Law Professor and constitutional law expert Laurence Tribe has written an e-mail to New York Times reporter Adam Liptak, in which Tribe points out just how petty and misguided is the obsession with attacking the "quality" of Judge Taylor's written opinion while all but ignoring the infinitely more important issues of systematic presidential law-breaking -- a point which, as readers here know, I have been arguing for three straight days now. I have a post up at C&L today about the Tribe e-mail.

I can't recall the last time I found something so sublimely written and argued. The entire Tribe letter is highly worth reading, but if I were forced to choose my favorite paragraph, I would probably have to pick this one:

My point isn’t that judges who play the role Judge Taylor did should never be held to account for the shoddy quality of their legal analysis; of course they should, especially in the context of sober second thoughts offered in law reviews and other scholarly venues. But it’s those with constitutional blood on their hands who deserve to be chastized most insistently in the public press, and it seems to me something of an indulgence to spend so much time complaining in the media that the judge who called foul used some ill-chosen rhetoric, and that she stuttered and sputtered a bit more than necessary, when the principal effects might well be to underscore one’s own professional credentials and one’s cleverness and even-handedness and fair-mindedness at the expense of distracting the general public from the far more important conclusion that the nation’s chief executive has been guilty of a shamelessly unlawful power grab.

That is exactly right on every level, and I hope that those in the media who think that the importance of judicial opinions is determined by taking a poll of law professors (including some who have little or no experience with actual civil litigation) will speak with Professor Tribe before writing another article about this ruling.

(2) The transcript to the interview I did on Friday morning on Democracy Now, with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, is here. The interview can also be watched or listened to on the same page. It focuses on the NSA ruling as well as the implications of the Justice Department's criminal prosecution of the former AIPAC employees.

(3) Mona at Inactivist notes that even some of the President's hardest-core supporters are now acknowledging that the Iraq project is a failure, including one who wrote: "many other conservatives supported this president and this war, and it has degenerated into exactly the kind of mess that many, many voices (some of whom I respect, some of whom I still don’t — as if that mattered) warned about from the get-go. I’m sick about it."

Sometimes, reality becomes too undeniable even for those most willing to deny it. As Mona notes, there are still the Hugh Hewitts and Glenn Reynolds of the world who will cling to their fantasies and self-serving deceits until the bitter end (they are what Don Rumsfeld, in another context, refers to as "dead-enders"), but there is a clear tipping point that has been reached with Iraq, where even the most ardent war advocates are (for whatever it's worth) admitting error. Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice documents the same trend.

(4) Guest posting on Andrew Sullivan's blog, Michael Totten writes from Tel Aviv:

The mood here in Tel Aviv is pretty grim, too. The Olmert government looks like it could collapse under pressure at any time. Hardly anyone in this country seems to think the air war over Lebanon was a good idea anymore. Hassan Nasrallah’s claim of “victory” sounds almost plausible after a month of hard fighting failed to produce many of the tangible promised results. . . .

Israelis are far quicker to criticize their government during and immediately after a war than Americans are. . . . An even starker contrast is noticeable between Israel-supporters in Israel and Israel-supporters in America. Israel’s partisans in the U.S. often talk as though Israel rarely makes any mistakes, that because Israel is a democracy with a right to defend itself it can do no or little wrong. Israelis themselves rarely do this.

I've contrasted several times the Isrealis' willingness to acknowledge so openly and quickly that their war in Lebanon was going so poorly with the absurd insistence by Bush supporters in the U.S., sustained over several years, that the disaster in Iraq was going well. As Totten notes, these supporters apply their same absolutist, reality-denying mindset to Israel as they apply to the conduct of George Bush and the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Those who are Good can do no wrong, and leaders during a time of war are above reproach. As the Israelis recognize (and Iraq conclusively demonstrates), such blind loyalty to a country's leaders -- maintained even in the face of undeniable facts to the contrary -- does nothing but breed disaster.

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