Do you remember the claim made by Republicans asking people to vote for their party in 2000? The claim was that they were going to restore a moral White House. Bill Clinton had diminished the stature of the Presidency. The Republicans would start a new era. Bush swept into office–many people still believe, illegitimately, unlawfully . . . and immorally–and fired all Clinton’s White House staff. Republicans (and we are made to believe, Americans) were heartened.
Considering the amount of tax-payer millions spent on cleansing America of a philandering president, one would think Republicans would have some consistency with their own.
But what now? Do we have to ask what Foley was up to as he “aggressively” pursued boy pages down the halls of Congress? What about Scooter Libby, writing erotic novels?
What about all the people Rumsfeld took down by accusing them of sexual improprieties? Like Guantanamo chaplain Captain James Yee. Or General Kevin Byrnes.
And let’s go back a bit to Abramoff. No sexual shenanigans there, right? Nope. I guess it is no longer considered obscene to defraud others of millions of dollars, including one’s own Native American constituents.
Nor is it considered immoral for the President to reserve the right to torture, when he feels like it. Now–as one of my colleagues has frequently said–he can roast babies over a fire in order to gain what he deems necessary intelligence. But he wouldn’t do that, would he? I wonder who is on record saying it was time to “take the gloves off”? (Hint: He’s the VP.) Who authorized the extraordinary renditions? The CIA black sites? The sexual torture at Abu Ghraib? Wasn’t it Rumsfeld? Or was it Gonzales? Or was it Bush? Oh, I forgot: despite the fact that they have gone on the record repeatedly, authorizing extreme procedures, they’re not responsible for what their underlings do.
Ever hear of “command responsibility” or the Nuremburg Principles?
And let’s take a look back for a moment at the time when this moral White House was bucking to get into office. What about the outrageous and immoral tactics used in that election? Intimidating voters, threatening recounters.
Or, for that matter, the legal strategies used by the Republicans to bring suit before the Supreme Court of the United States to stop a recount on completely frivolous grounds. Oh, the irony. A court that had repeatedly refused to consider an equal protection claim that did not prove discriminatory intent now was perfectly happy to decide that the Emperor-to-Be-with-no-Clothes really DID have clothes on, really did have an equal protection claim, even though he could not prove ANY discriminatory intent whatsoever. In fact, the laws Bush challenged were nearly identical to those he had signed into law in his home state of Texas while governor.
But the Supreme Court was perfectly willing to let him make the frivolous and insulting equal protection argument to their faces despite the fact that Bush didn’t even have any standing to make the claim. He was, after all, bringing the claim for his voters, who couldn’t be expected to speak for themselves, so the High Court decided that the naked Emperor-to-Be had a legitimate claim to challenge the laws that affected those he didn’t yet electorally represent.
Naked, yes, and already clothed with illegality and impropriety. And astonishingly, nobody noticed a thing!
Now, fast forward to Abu Ghraib. Isn’t it immoral to torture? Isn’t it immoral to sexually humiliate someone? What would Jesus do? This is compassionate conservatism? But this IS what the President wants the freedom to do, isn’t it? Isn’t that what the Detainee Treatment Act (DTA), just passed by Congress, about?
No, I forgot. Torture is only part of what the DTA allows. It also allows Bush to declare anyone he pleases an unlawful enemy combatant and detain him for as long as he wants. It also suspends habeas corpus for aliens, although the Constitution says habeas corpus may only be suspended during insurrections or rebellions. Habeas corpus. Remember that thing? It’s also been called the Great Writ of Liberty.
Now the President has succeeded in garnering exemptions from the War Crimes Act for his torturers and extraordinary renderers, as well as for himself and his Cabinet. That’s real moral, isn’t it?
And what about Iraq? Was it moral to invade Iraq on the basis of lies?
And where are the moral standard bearers now? Hiding their heads in the sand? Where are your morals now? How could you let this happen to your country?
JENNIFER VAN BERGEN, a journalist with a law degree, is the author of THE TWILIGHT OF DEMOCRACY: THE BUSH PLAN FOR AMERICA (Common Courage Press, 2004). She writes frequently on civil liberties, human rights, and international law. Her book, ARCHETYPES FOR WRITERS, about the characterization method she developed and taught at the New School University, will be out in 2006. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.