Change Watch: Plus ça change...

Gary Wills has a very fine essay in the current New York Review (Entangled Giant 2009-10-08) on the failure of Obama's minions to bring change with them to Washington. The transformation of liberals into neocons is so striking and so complete one White House insider compared it to Invasion of the Bodysnatchers.
George W. Bush left the White House unpopular and disgraced. His successor promised change, and it was clear where change was needed. Illegal acts should cease—torture and indefinite detention, denial of habeas corpus and legal representation, unilateral canceling of treaties, defiance of Congress and the Constitution, nullification of laws by signing statements. Powers attributed to the president by the theory of the unitary executive should not be exercised. Judges who are willing to give the president any power he asks for should not be confirmed.

But the momentum of accumulating powers in the executive is not easily reversed, checked, or even slowed. It was not created by the Bush administration. The whole history of America since World War II caused an inertial transfer of power toward the executive branch. The monopoly on use of nuclear weaponry, the cult of the commander in chief, the worldwide network of military bases to maintain nuclear alert and supremacy, the secret intelligence agencies, the entire national security state, the classification and clearance systems, the expansion of state secrets, the withholding of evidence and information, the permanent emergency that has melded World War II with the cold war and the cold war with the "war on terror"—all these make a vast and intricate structure that may not yield to effort at dismantling it. Sixty-eight straight years of war emergency powers (1941–2009) have made the abnormal normal, and constitutional diminishment the settled order.
It may be true that "the Constitution has become quaint and obsolete." Capitalism has had its run. Maybe representative democracy has, too. If so, do you think we could schedule a few hours to mull over what we might replace them with?

The rest of the story: Entangled Giant by Gary Wills (The New York Review of Books 2009-10-08)

No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails