Call me crazy, but I have never been trusting of politicians. Like many, I find that politicians – Democrats and Republicans alike – often say one thing and, yet, more often do quite another. I suppose the old saying applies: “Actions speak louder than words”. So why is it then, that when the president’s actions speak of government activities that are antithetical to our established notions of democracy, that many Americans act as if they are deaf?
Miriam-Webster Dictionary defines a tyrant as “an absolute ruler unrestrained by law or constitution; an usurper of sovereignty,” and a president as, “an appointed governor of a subordinate political unit,” and a fool as – well, I’m sure you know.
With these definitions in mind, let us now focus on Mr. Bush. Before we begin, keep in mind that in America, we – the People – are the source of all sovereign power and authority. All authority bestowed upon our elected officials is derived from the power of the people. In a nutshell, The federal government works something like this: the people create law (through our elected congress); the president enforces the law as we proscribe; the courts interpret if a law (and its enforcement) is constitutional.
The key phrase is that the president’s role is to enforce the law “as we proscribe,” period. Yes, the president’s role in our democratic society is, in fact, very limited – and that’s exactly how the founding fathers designed it to be, for they were keenly aware of the ill-effects which inevitably result from having a powerful, unitary government figure (regardless of whether that figure calls itself monarch or a president).
With our definitions of a tyrant and president, and the limited role of the president in mind, I’ll throw some mud at the wall and see what sticks.
Last month, Congress passed a bill (much to the chagrin of the White House) in an attempt to restore some semblance of “rule of law” to American prison camps (remember the good times at Abu Grahib, Guantanamo Bay?). Bush, realizing that his veto would be defeated in Congress, signed the bill, but only after he could wipe his ass with the Constitution.
Before signing the bill into law, Mr. Bush issued what is called a “signing statement.” The “statement” Bush makes: Whatever Congress intended the law to say, he intends to ignore it, on the pretext that the Commander in Chief is above the law.
That twisted reasoning is what led to the legalized torture policies in the first place, not to mention the domestic spying program. In layman’s terms, what Bush’s actions are saying is that the laws of Congress – and thus the sovereign will of the American people – do not apply to him. Tyrant, president or fool?
Yet, Bush did not stop there. According to the New York Times, the Solicitor General (representing the White House) informed the Supreme Court last week that it no longer had (constitutional) jurisdiction over detainee cases.”
Be aware that history is in the making; soon all three branches of the federal government will be under the control of one very corrupt, morally repugnant and frighteningly conservative Republican Party. How might this affect the government’s obligation to check and balance itself? Do Bush’s actions speak more like a president, a tyrant, or something else? How might the pending shift on the Supreme Court affect our notions of democracy? It is a simple question with a not-so-simple answer: Who will police the police?
Jack L. Ingram III is a political science senior and Mustang Daily columnist.