From which a tyrant springs

This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector.

Plato

If Blair’s name-checking of Thomas Hobbes in launching the ‘Respect Agenda’ wasn’t unnerving enough, today’s round of deliveries to the in-box brings me an article by Sidney Blumenthal on Bush’s ‘Shadow Government’.

To illustrate just how unnerving this article is, consider this:

During his first term, President Bush issued an unprecedented 108 statements upon signing bills of legislation that expressed his own version of their content. He has countermanded the legislative history, which legally establishes the foundation of their meaning, by executive diktat. In particular, he has rejected parts of legislation that he considered stepped on his power in national security matters. In effect, Bush engages in presidential nullification of any law he sees fit. He then acts as if his gesture supersedes whatever Congress has done.

And this:

Last week, when Bush signed the military appropriations bill containing the amendment forbidding torture that he and Vice President Cheney had fought against, he added his own “signing statement” to it. It amounted to a waiver, authorized by him alone, that he could and would disobey this law whenever he chose.

He wrote:

“The executive branch shall construe Title X in Division A of the Act, relating to detainees, in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to supervise the unitary executive branch and as Commander in Chief and consistent with the constitutional limitations on the judicial power, which will assist in achieving the shared objective of the Congress and the President, evidenced in Title X, of protecting the American people from further terrorist attacks.”

In short, the president, in the name of national security, claiming to protect the country from terrorism, under war powers granted to him by himself, would follow the law to the extent that he decided he would.

Bush, it seems, considers himself above the law, above Congress and above even the US Constitution. He may not quite qualify as a dictator, after all he has yet to refuse to relinquish power at the end of his term of office and is unlikely to take such a course, but he is most certainly a tyrant.

If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy

James Madison – 4th President of the United States of America