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Thursday, July 26, 2007
(8:33 AM) | Stephen:
Balanced On The Knife Edge

When was the last time you stopped and thought about George Washington, about his contributions to the USA? Sure, he was a decent general, and as president he was an able administrator. But he also, by dint of being the first, served as the template for every president since. In that role he did two extremely significant things: he refused to run for a third term, and he wanted to be called "Mr. President."

Far from being the invocation of a demigod, "Mr. President" was an intentional rejection of the titles associated with English nobility. It was a term of respect, but one that described a temporary function, not an innate status.

No less significant for the character of the American Presidency was one particular action by John Adams, the second President of the United States. He served as Vice-President under Washington, and was elected to the Presidency in 1796. In 1800 he ran for reelection, and lost to Thomas Jefferson. And on March 4, 1801, John Adams stepped down.

That's what he did. He lost an election and stepped down. That was a radical idea then, and in many places of the world it is a radical idea still. Our first Presidents, through actions as well as rhetoric, established the practice and expectation that they would act according to the Constitution and laws of the United States, and would do so without struggle or strife.

For over 200 years now the United States of America has managed to function with a government in a state of almost constant flux. We have even managed to liberalize our electoral processes, recognizing the inherent right to vote of every person regardless of gender, ethnicity or economic status. We've made it so that Senators are elected by popular vote, so that these rather powerful legislators are more answerable to the people. We have had a succession of Congressional or chamber majorities, a succession of Presidents handing the reins of considerable power to one another peacefully.

It's always been a tenuous system, fragile and always a small step away from either anarchy or authoritarianism. Yesterday, the House Judiciary Committee voted to cite Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten for Contempt of Congress. It should have been a unanimous vote instead of the party-line farce the GOP insists upon all the time. In their case, it wasn't about "executive privilege" no matter what Tony Snow says. Miers and Bolten simply didn't show up. They could have shown up, refused to answer any questions by telling the Representatives that they had been instructed to keep their mouths shut due to "executive privilege" and that would pretty much be that. There would still be a conflict. There would still be a problem. But there would be no Contempt of Congress charges - remember that as you hear and listen to GOP lies the next few days.

In every action, the Bush regime has shown disregard for the system of checks and balances that has been the hallmark of American governance for over 200 years. For this regime, everything and everyone is covered by "executive privilege." For this regime, Congress exists only to rubber stamp what they have decided to do. For the Bush regime, "the people" only matter if they support Bush's policies and actions. Otherwise they are ignored.

Make no mistake: we are on the cusp of an absolute dictatorship. The Bush regime is intent upon establishing themselves as the absolute and only governmental authority. Like all authoritarian governments, they pursue policies that massively benefit a minority of economically powerful interests at the expense of common citizens. Like all authoritarian governments, they rely upon citizens' fear of vaguely defined, nebulous "enemies" that not only surround the nation on all sides but have also infiltrated the populace itself in order to keep people in line.

And like most countries being ruled by an authoritarian government - it's already happening, it's been happening for a few years now - there is a substantial portion of the population that has no problem with that. These are the people who benefit economically, whose prejudices and fears are being served by the government's propaganda, whose apathy and ignorance override their responsibilities to themselves and their fellow citizens.

It is this minority of citizens who benefit directly from the Bush regime's disregard for the law that is represented by the GOP - in all levels of our government, but especially in Congress. The Republican Party stands in the way of democracy, of the rule of law, of everything for which the United States has stood these last two centuries. They are the enemies of democracy. They are the ones who "hate us for our freedoms," for what have they done these last 6 years but attempt, again and again, to restrict the rights and freedoms enjoyed by Americans?

We have about 18 months left until the next President is scheduled to be inaugurated and the next Congress installed. These months will be the defining moment of our time, perhaps even for the next two centuries of the USA.

What are we willing to do about it?

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