About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Monday, December 19, 2005

He is the President, not a King

Ever since he has admitted to authorizing a secret eavesdropping program on American citizens -- without court approval -- Bush has gotten into trouble not just with Democrats, but also with some Republicans concerned about individual rights, and even with former members of his own and the Reagan administrations.

According to today's National Public Radio report, Bush has been compared to an aspiring king, and a former Reagan administration official even mention the dirtiest word of them all, impeachment. Not good for a President who won re-election last year claiming a "mandate" to keep the so-called war on terror going, not to mention to overhaul social security and to make permanent a series of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

What is going on here? Well, as I pointed out before, since 9/11 the current administration has consistently worked to push this country toward the most fascist type of government still (barely) compatible with a (sort of) representative democracy. And until very recently they were succeeding beautifully.

But the mounting number of American (who cares about the Iraqi) casualties in the war, the indictment of members of the administration, the renewed vigor (ok, that's too strong a word) of the Democrats, and a number of leaks about the modus operandi of the Bush White House are beginning to take a tall. It is even possible that Bush's arrogance will actually push Congress to legislate to restrict the powers of the Presidency, something that is way overdue anyway.

Meanwhile, of course, the rest of the world is astonished at the image of a superpower who wishes to export democracy to the uncivilized, and yet looks increasingly like one of those third-world countries were an elected president is a de-facto dictator. What next, a second American revolution?


  1. Show me where, besides in the fevered imaginings of William O. Douglas, this alleged right to privacy exists. In times of war, the President MUST be able to direct foreign policy as he sees fit, including taking any and all measures that would lead to a swifter end of hostilities. Lincoln's suspension of Habaeus Corpus, the March to the Sea, Wilson's activities in WW1, Japanese internment, J. Edgar's activities in the Cold War, and the President's activities. All perfectly proper, legal, and moral. All deferred to the power of the Executive, which is the proper (and Constitutional) course in time of war. After all, the President (NOT Congress) is Commander In Chief. In terms of warmaking power, once the power has been delegated by Congress, the President is and indeed must be sovreign. To do otherwise is to needlessly prolong conflict.

  2. "All perfectly proper, legal, and moral."

    I suspect that many disagree with your assessment that all of the actions you refer to were any or all of the above.

    My understanding of the "secret eavesdropping program" is that it was most likely illegal (possibly depending on the nature of consultation with the congress), but clearly not proper or moral once the immediate threat post 9/11 had past and the (misguided) Patriot Act was inplace.

  3. Yeah, but Congress hasn't officially declared war on Iraq, IIRC. So why should Dubya get the "official" powers owed to a wartime president?

    Not to mention, where's the war now? Saddam Hussein is out of power in Iraq. The President can't just redefine "war" at whim so he can get extra powers. American troops are now just skirmishing with a bunch of insurgents and terrorist cells, not fighting a real war with defined boundaries and enemies. To top it off, the fact that this war will never end (even admitted by Bush himself once) because there will never cease to be Islamic terrorists who are enemies of the US makes the whole "war powers" thing ludicrious.

    And except for super-far- right-wingnuts like Michelle Malkin, just about nobody thinks the Japanese internment in WWII was "proper, legal, and moral".

  4. Dubya REALLY seems to be USA's de facto king. OK, an elected king, but he's much more powerful than any of the monarchs in European countries. Check this out:

    "Why George W. Bush Is Really Our King"

    Now, could someone please tell me where is the war? For "times of war", you need to actually have a war, isn't that logical?

    But the US is in no war that I know of, is it? Against which country? In my opinion there was never a war in Iraq at all - you'd have to have no sense of pride to call a war the invasion of a defenceless country that didn't even have working airplanes. But let's forget this and consider it WAS a war. It's been declared over for quite a while, hasn't it? Isn't the occupation of Iraq by foreign troups now just a "help" for the reconstruction? That's what I've been hearing, but it might be Yet Another Lie (TM).

    Second, even if you do consider there is still war in Iraq, did the spying on peaceful protesting groups in the US have anything to do with that particular war? I'd guess it didn't. Specially given the competence of the "intelligence" as of lately...


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  6. I can't believe I just read the crap put out by "cato". If we were in a war that was forced on us from without, this would make some sense. But this Iraq adventure was forced on us by our own (and I use the term hesitantly)president. This war had nothing to do with terrorism until Bush made it so.

    He was absolutely right in going into Afghanistan, where the bin Laden bunch had holed up and trained. If he had continued to pursue them that would have been fine. But he tired of that- it wasn't spectacular enough, so he turned it over to the Afghani war lords and the Pakistanis. We can see how well that has turned out.

    He quit in mid-pursuit in order to start something more "worthy of his self proclaimed talents", that being to become the "war president." He just loves being the big tough "war president" and the "commander-in-chief. He is like a little child playing soldier, except being a grown man he becomes pathetic, he is an imbecile. He was too cowardly to go to war (that is to put his own butt on the line) as a young man, but is more than willing to sacrifice the lives of others for his aggrandizment.

    In short Bush is an incompetent, a bully and as are most bullys, a coward.

    Let's hope that this country can survive his imperial blundering until he resigns, (the most honorable thing he could do) is impeached and convicted, or his term of office comes to an end.

    In any case he must be charged with treasonous acts and made to suffer whatever punishment a domestic or international court deems proper. He is a criminal!

  7. One other thing "cato". My wife was born in one of your "legal and proper" internment camps. Her uncle (her dad was 4F) enlisted in the Army out of that same "legal and proper" internment camp, was a member of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team (the most decorated unit of WWII) was shot all to hell in the rescue of the Lost Texas Batallion in Italy, assumed command of his decimated platoon when his lieutenant was killed and received the Distinguished Service Cross for his troubles.

    Now don't even think about suggesting that your high and mighty Commander-in-chief George Bush is the same calibre of man that her uncle is. George Bush wouldn't make a wart on his ass!

    Excuse my rant, but I've heard and stomached about all I can take about how wonderful this non-president is!

  8. Cato seems to have a love of the constitution, as do I, to bad he hasn't actually read it.

    1) Article. II. Section. 2. makes the President Commander-in-Chief of the Millitary and deals ONLY with his powers concerning the Military. It in NO WAY gives him carte blanche to set ANY policy he wants during a time of war. Nor does ANY part of the constitution give congress leave to make the president "sovrein" even in a time of war.

    2)The Bill of Rights is MEANINGLESS without an asumed right to privacy, and the constitution gives us the ability to make that asumtion in Amendment IX.:

    "The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights SHALL NOT (my emphasis) be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

    Get it? The people, not the government, get the benifit of the doubt when it comes to rights not specifically mentioned in the Constitution.

    If that's not enough for you, here's Amendment X.:

    "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

    Need I say more?


  9. Weird, why was my little second post deleted there? I was just saying my post and Adrienne's were almost at the same time, therefore the similarity... And thanking her for the info, too.

    Anyway, whatever. Here go some nice, fun examples of "intelligence" at work:



  10. From what I've heard and read, the intelligence agencies and the president had the legal route of FISA to get wiretap and other surveillance approval if the target was at all implicated in any wrong-doing. That they didn't use that mechanism says something. To me it says that the targets were very questionable. In other words, they thought that the FISA court would not approve. We have checks and balances for a reason. If GWB is skirting them, he's doing something illegal or at the very least detrimental to American citizens.


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