Monday, January 2, 2006

Time Will Tell

From Time:

There will be a lot of constitutional issues under discussion in weeks to come because the war on terrorism has the potential to embed itself deeply into our legal norms. Conventional wars, against nation-states that can be plainly identified and defeated, have a clear aim in sight. The fight against endlessly shape-shifting terrorist groups is more open-ended. So when we talk about trade-offs between freedom and security, it’s a mistake to assume they will be short-term adjustments. The emergency powers that we agree to now may well become the American way for years. We may still agree to them, but it’s essential to know exactly what costs they come with.

I had a subscription to Time for years, but I let it lapse when I got tired of their toadying to the Reagan and Bush I administrations. They’re still sounding like they’re trying to keep in the good graces of the powerful, but the question they pose is a good one: how far are we willing to go to win and what are we willing to sacrifice for it?

I’ve said it before that President Bush probably could have gotten whatever changes he needed in the FISA law in the aftermath of 9/11 or in the creation of the PATRIOT Act. At that time Congress would have probably given him any powers he asked for, including doing what he’s doing now by skirting FISA. Hell, Congress probably would have delivered those powers with candy and a stripper. And we would have gone along with it. But now, as 9/11 fades and the truth comes out about the run-up to the war in Iraq, all of the good will that could have been built upon has been trashed, and not by the loyal opposition. It’s a case once again of an administration overreaching in its determination to prove that while the theory of checks and balances may sound fine in a civics class and that all branches of our government are equal, some are more equal than others.