more gore

On the home front, it will take an unapologetically powerful leader to break Washington from its transactional rut. At the same time, we need a vigorous Congress with a sense of urgency that can hold the executive branch accountable not only for the rule of law but for results.
Al Gore is right that like Nixon, Bush acts like an imperial president. But the best way to curb the imperial presidency isn’t for Congress to tie the next president’s hands. It’s for Americans to elect a new president and Congress who will go all-out to earn the public’s trust.[here]

just… no. our system of government isn’t based on the hopes that the better angels of men will be elected, and their judgement curb their power. madison, wisely, thought there should be structural limitations upon the power of the president. checks. balances. that part of history in high school that apparently only democrats were awake for…

don’t get me wrong, i like the idea of once again trusting our elected officials, but that only takes ya so far. trust erodes, and COINTELPRO wasn’t so long ago. besides, there is no harm in setting boundaries any president worth trusting would never cross. and electrifying them, for good measure.

** * **

besides, this is simply another case where sacrificing liberty for security yields neither. there are some problems a single reformer in a system can solve given sufficient power (at least without wrecking the system they operate within – for the worse). they tend to have clearly defined objectives (right to vote issues) and are relatively ‘cheap’ to impliment (parts of the civil rights movement). neither the war on terror nor the reformation of washington fit these categories.

part of the problem is the frame most conversations approach the problem within. the “war on terror” has been a terrible metaphor ever since the republican noise machine invented it before the rubble had even cooled. police action, while less stirring, is a more appropriate model. the logic of this viewpoint isn’t exactly difficult to understand. when fighting an enemy that so readily uses asymmetrical force, and when even lone individuals have the power to destroy en masse, we’re required to collect vast quantities of information on our enemies, and use surgical precision against them, while at the same time eliminating the underlying causes for their success. on this view, wars are counterproductive. they destroy our intelligence networks and use their resources frivously. they are exceedingly messy, with causualties clearing the thousands. and they reinforce many of the underlying causes – promoting a vision of american imperialism, spreading suffering, etc.

if we’re going to win this one in any meaningful sense, it is going to require a broad consensus and a substantive public debate. it requires incremental changes to the economic, political, and international structure of the country. presidents are a vital part of that but they aren’t the only ones that count, particularly ones enamored with their supposed power.


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