Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Strict Implication

Last night Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was interviewed on the Newshour with Jim Lehrer. He contended that the president had the legal authority to order surveillance without warrants because it was covered by the Authorization to Use Military Force after 9/11. The Justice Department released a 42-page brief to back up this contention that such authority was implied when the Congress granted permission to the president to use “appropriate means” to track down Osama bin Laden, even though many members of Congress dispute that interpretation. Mr. Gonzales was putting a great deal of stock in what was implied in the AUMF, not in what was actually written.

Compare that with the so-called “strict constructionist” interpretation of the Constitution that so many conservatives — and members of the Bush administration, including Mr. Gonzales — are proud to proclaim when it comes to things like the right of privacy or the right for a woman to have control over her uterus. They go to great pains to point out that there is no “enumerated” right to privacy in the Constitution and therefore the interpretation of the Fourth Amendment to include such is wrong.

So I guess that while they never truly come out and say it, we can imply that they’re living by the time-honored double standard that if it works to their advantage, they’ll stretch the law to fit their needs except when it doesn’t.