Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Secret Dictatorship

Anyone who expected that BDS would go away after the election can think again. It's been pretty funny watching the hysterical overreaction to the recently released Bush administration memos. But Scott Horton's article at Harper's is one of the most ludicrous I've seen, especially since it appears in a respected publication rather than on some easily-dismissed left-wing blog. Here's Horton:

We may not have realized it at the time, but in the period from late 2001-January 19, 2009, this country was a dictatorship. The constitutional rights we learned about in high school civics were suspended.
Yeah, we just missed the whole dictatorship thing. Why? Because it was secret. That's right, it was the first secret dictatorship in history. It was so secret that it resulted in the dictator's entire political establishment being voted out of power and getting replaced by the opposition. In a country of 300 million, the violation of constitutional rights was so secret that no one can actually provide any concrete examples (conspiracy theories don't count), other than Jose Padilla -- and the supposed dictator meekly acquiesced when the courts slapped down the executive branch for exceeding its authority in that case. Some dictator. Oops, I almost forgot that Bush was a secret dictator.  I guess that's why it appears to rational people that he wasn't a dictator at all -- just a third-rate president who inspired insanity in his opponents.


  1. Yeah, if you completely ignore the meaning of "dictator."

  2. or if you understand the meaning to be "to prescribe with authority; impose: dictated the rules of the game ; to control or command ... dictatorial stresses the highhanded, peremptory manner [not allowing contradiction or refusal]".

    In addition to dictatorial, also applicable would be undemocratic and illiberal, but most of all unlawful, as in exercising unlawful authority.

  3. Saying that the executive branch exceeded its authority, or even that it actually broke the law, is still far different than being a dictatorship.

  4. You can go on mocking people who overstate their case as "insane" --gives you something to write about, I understand-- but overstatement is a common failing.

    I was careful to say dictatorial, which does not mean a dictatoriship proper.

    Heck, Bush himself knew that it wasn't. Which is part of why he did these things in private.

    (Keeping methods secret from terrorists is ostensibly a contributing reason, but you'll never convince me that e.g. suspending the 1st and 4th amendments in America was something that had to be kept secret. If you have grounds to do that sort of thing -- which I don't think any executive official does -- then you should be able to make your case publicly)

  5. "but you'll never convince me that e.g. suspending the 1st and 4th amendments in America was something that had to be kept secret."

    They were never suspended. The memos were based on worst-case possibilities. I view them similiar to military contingency plans. If the U.S. suffers a series of crippling domestic terror attacks (as some feared might happen after 9/11), it's quite possible we'll see a dramatic and unconstitutional expansion of executive powers, probably with the full support of most of Congress.