Former Vice-President Al Gore's speech on January 16th contained another element that I think Americans need to consider before the next terrorist attack (by foreign agents) on American soil.
The Bush Administration argues that their decision to suspend the Bill of Rights was justified on the basis that it "saved lived". Back when the Bill of Rights was in force, we suffered a horrendous terrorist attack. Since the Bush Administration suspended the Bill of Rights, there has been no such attack. So, clearly, the wise choice was to suspend the Bill of Rights.
Yet, if there is another terrorist attack, do not expect to hear the Bush Administration say, "I guess that suspending the Bill of Rights did not work after all." Rather, expect them to say, "We tried too hard to hold on to the last shreds of the Bill of Rights. We should have let go completely."
Where "success" implies "we need more power", and "failure" implies "we need more power", we have reason to suspect that the person making the argument cares only about gaining more power, and cares little about success or failure.
We saw this same line of reasoning when the Bush Administration wanted its tax cuts. They started off saying, "The economy is strong; therefore, we should cut taxes." As the stock market bubble burst they said, "The economy is weak; therefore, we should cut taxes."
I write this warning because there is a chance of another terrorist attack, and with that attack I expect that the Bush Administration will almost certainly say, "You have not given me enough power." I think that it is important to be ready for this argument when it comes.
When it does come, we need to be ready to say, "You claim that your abuse of power 'works'; yet, I fail to see how your abuse of power can possibly 'work' to prevent the abuse of power. Your decision to suspend the Bill of Rights cannot possibly 'work' to protect and defend the Bill of Rights. Establishing a dictatorship with so-called rights to torture and imprison people at will and write their own laws is not an effective way of protecting ourselves from the establishment of a dictatorship."
The Administration utters total nonsense when it says, "We are defending the Bill of Rights! To do this, we must authorize warrantless searches and seizures, arrest people without charges and hold them in prison for life, where we subject them to cruel and unusual punishment, forcing them to testify against themselves, and denying them life, liberty, and property with no due process of law other than the 'President's' own arbitrary command."
This Administration utters total nonsense when it says, "We are defending the Constitution by making the Legislative and Judiciary branches of government impotent and irrelevant, taking their powers from them and putting them all in the hands of an all-powerful ruler."
Imagine the President standing beside a shredder, into which he is feeding the Constitution, and when he is asked why he is doing this he responds simply, “It works.”
It works . . . at doing what?
It is certainly a successful way of getting the Constitution shredded. However, it is a very poor way of protecting the Constitution from those who would shred it.
The abolition of these principles “works” only if we decide to adopt a new project that is significantly at odds to that for which 200 years of Americans were willing to sacrifice their lives. It “works” only if we decide that protecting the Constitution and the principles contained within are no longer serious considerations.
If our goal is to establish torture, indefinite imprisonment without charges or a trial, rendition, warrantless searches and seizures, depriving people of life, liberty, and property without due process, and impotent and irrelevant legislature and judiciary are what we want to accomplish, then the Bush system certainly does work.
But if our goal is to oppose these things, there is no conceivable way that any sane person can stand befor ethe American people and say that torture, warrantless searches, an impotent legislature and judiciary, and all of the other things, in any conceivable way, "works".
And one last note for Mr. Bush and company.
If you have to make a choice between saving my life and saving the Constitution -- please pick the Constitution. My father was willing to make this sacrifice. So am I.