Monday, October 09, 2006

For Shame

Did you hear that click, like the turning of a dial, auguring a new America?

It happened on Sept. 29 at 2:47 p.m. That was the seismic minute that Congress passed the Military Commissions Act and formally granted President Bush royal powers he had been unilaterally arrogating. The historic action may one day be remembered as the moment the great American experiment in liberty ended. It was a good run.

You see, it is one thing for a renegade executive to crown himself like Charlemagne and declare that his (cough) wisdom is exceptional enough to designate Americans and foreigners as enemies to be detained indefinitely. It is quite another for 315 members of Congress to go along. When the people's representatives collude to collapse the separation of powers into one omnipotent executive, our nation becomes defined by that act. We are a nation of laws, even when it's a really bad one.

Republican leaders in Congress were in a quandary because Bush had proven that he could not be trusted to respect the boundaries of law, and the Supreme Court called him on it. In striking down Bush's kangaroo military tribunals and resurrecting the Geneva Conventions, the court said that the president couldn't ignore U.S. law and international commitments without Congress' explicit assent. So Congress assented. Problem solved.

America's bedrock principles may be a pile of rubble, but the Republican president won a political victory. Proving once again that there is no national conscience anymore. Holding power is all that matters.