Tom Levenson over at Balloon-Juice.com has something interesting to say about Vice President Joe Biden’s speech given yesterday at the memorial service for the slain MIT police officer, Sean Collier*. Bolded statements are my doing.
But Biden did limn a present realit [sic] as well, in that we still live in a country where a ruling like Hamdan v. Rumsfeld can be both heard and decided against the government. I live in a town where police officers tackled a cop-killer in the midst of a gun battle, in the hopes of keeping him alive long enough to face a court. Here in Boston, Dzokhar Tsarnaev was charged as a common criminal, read his rights (not fast enough for some, but still) and will in fact face civilian charges. This country are [sic] so far from perfect it sometimes feels like we’re [sic] can only approach perfection the long way round — but that’s in the nature of cities on hills. I’m pretty sure Joe had something like this in mind when he spoke yesterday.
And I have next to no doubt at all that he was scolding that claque of Republican leaders who seem to have lost all courage, John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Kelly Ayotte, and all the rest. They’ve been up on their hind legs since Friday, bellowing the urgency of making sure Tsarnaev face a jury-rigged military tribunal system, and damned be the American constitutional system and any faith in the power of a jury of Americans to do and be seen to have done justice.
That rebuke is what this speech was about, beyond the pure duty of comfort that Biden handled so well in the first, longer section of his remarks. He was telling a failed Republican party that America is something other than [sic] hollow republic the Bush-Cheney regime sought to build. He was as well talking to the broader audience through the TV set, making the case (again!) that there is an alternative to a government based on authority granted out of fear. He was reminding everyone in earshot that the way the Republicans ran the republic — and would do again, if they get the chance — is not just an error; it’s un-American. This was powerful stuff, and inside the political ring, it was [sic] had the power to hurt, a nut-cutting blow.
See, McCain and Company want Tsarnaev, who is a citizen, to be sent to Guantonomo and to be stripped of all his rights. Why is it the Republicans are so interested in their own rights (see Rand Paul’s statement about drones and hot tubs**) but not all that interested in the rights of “those other” American citizens. Hmmmmm, it couldn’t be because they ARE considered “other”, could it?
Besides the fear motive, all of this trumpeting originates from the conservative idea that our government is broken and that the only way to fix it is to step outside the rules. Conservatives often propose letting some supposedly benevolent strong man or men (ala, G.W. Bush and Dick Cheney, but not Pres. Obama, ad oculos) take control of things and take away our rights. Hell, they’re the main reason, and I mean Cheney specifically*** and his buddies, for the expansion of Executive power in the U.S. Were it not for them, no current President (who is in office is irrelevant here) would have the ability to start a war and tell Congress afterward or allow the killing of an American citizen without benefit of Due Process or use military tribunals and indefinite detention for civilians. This was never and never will be a liberal idea.****
Nevertheless for all of the Republican and, quite frankly, Democratic enabled transgressions of our values, we’re still shining on that hill just not as bright as we were before our ill-advised jaunt into Iraq and our fear-fueled foray into torture. And we are certainly not as bright as we could be and never will be if we don’t remain true to our values.
* Look at his young face, it’s hard not to be angry. It was hard looking at the photos and video of the bomb victims. I still can’t look at the picture of that sweet little boy who was killed. I understand their anger. I don’t understand their throwing our values out the window because of it. That’s not what grown ups are supposed to do and it sure as hell isn’t what the leaders of the free world are supposed to do.
**Rand does not want to be viewed in his hot tub by a government drone but is A-Okay with drones shooting people in commission of a crime, which goes waaaaayyyy beyond what the police would do. In fact, Levenson above gives an excellent example of how the police met deadly force with restraint in order to serve the larger goal of justice. Drones can’t do that and Rand Paul should know better and he probably does. See he only wants drones to “provide justice” to everyone else but he and his clique. Stupid man must not have studied history or he was too busy smoking dope to remember that such power never, ever remains targeted at just the people you want it to. First they came for the Jews, then they came for gypsies, then they came for…..etc, etc, etc.
***Cheney openly admits in interviews and in writing that way back when he was in the Nixon Administration that he supported and pushed for the expansion of Executive Power in a variety of ways. And when in office he claimed Executive Privilege over the tapes/minutes of his meeting with Oil Executives back in 2003-2004.
****Although not a liberal idea, conservatives will claim that liberal Presidents have not minded using that expanded Executive Privilege. First, I don’t think we’ve ever had a truly liberal President, maybe Carter? President Obama is not a liberal. He is a centrist Democrat. He not only claims this but anyone on the left can categorically tell you, he is not a liberal Democrat and never has been. Second, every President, regardless of Party, has taken advantage of the expansion of power given to the office because it makes their job easier. As President Obama said during his interview with Jon Stewart, it’s Congress’ and the Supreme Court’s job to take those powers away and they SHOULD do that. The branches must balance one another out. But Congress and SCOTUS, filled with Republicans, will continue to give the Executive Branch more and more power because at some point one of their party will be in office and they REALLY like taking advantage of such things (e.g., waterboarding with impunity) because democracy inconveniently gets in the way of their profiteering….um, I mean governing.