Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Jonah Goldberg is right

I am referring, of course, to the recent screed "Liberal Fascism." Like every other sentient being, I have scoffed at Goldberg's book, and commented on the nefarious motives underlying his sophistry.

But I now think there is at least a grain of truth to his polemic, however inadvertent. And today's historic lights-out vote in the Senate made it all crystal clear to me.

I am referring to the stirring way in which 18 stalwart Democrats (and of course the estimable Joe Lieberman) joined all 49 Republicans to grant retroactive immunity to the telecoms that illegally wiretapped American citizens at the behest of our Maximum Leader.

Glennzilla is pissed; even despondent. So am I.

As I have been going on about for several years now, we no longer have the government described in our Constitution -- that is, a tripartite structure in which the executive, legislative and judiciary functions are separated and effective in protecting their respective powers. Until George Bush took office, you would have been hard-pressed to find a politician of any stripe who would have disputed this simple concept: Congress makes the law, the executive branch enforces it, and the courts interpret it.

No more.

We no longer have a government consisting of three branches. All we have left is one branch and two fig leaves. Events of the last few weeks cement that result -- a disintegration unprecedented in our nation's history.

Congress has enthusiastically recused itself from its own role. Sure, it still passes bills. But those bills are no longer the law in this country. The law as actually enforced is determined by the roughly 1000 "signing statements" George Bush has issued, and by his oxymoronic Justice Department. If the executive branch doesn't like what Congress passes, well, the solution is simple: ignore it.

Congress sails blithely on, drawing salaries, passing bills, accomplishing nothing. What remains is the investigative power held and historically wielded by Congress. But when the Bush Administration has denied Congress' investigatory powers by ignoring subpoenas, Congress has consistently folded without protest.

Thus has the legislative power effectively been transferred to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with nary a peep of protest.

It is not clear that the judiciary is, overall, as willing to cede its authority. But look at new Attorney General Michael Mukasey -- a federal judge for 18 years -- who left the bench to, in theory, restore some semblance of justice to the Justice Department. In fact he has recently given us a mind-boggling usurpation of the judicial function.

In a congressional hearing today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) asked Attorney General Mike Mukasey whether he plans to “investigate whether U.S. interrogators broke the law when waterboarding al-Qaida detainees the years after 9/11.” Mukasey declined:

Are you ready to start a criminal investigation into whether this confirmed use of waterboarding by U.S. agents was illegal?” asked committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich.

No, I am not,” Mukasey answered bluntly.

“Whatever was done as part of a CIA program when it was done, was the subject of a Department of Justice opinion, through Office of Legal Counsel, that was found to be permissible under the law as it existed then,” Mukasey said.

"Found to be permissible"? Once upon a time, we all agreed that only a court of law could find a program permissible under the law. But "Judge" Mukasey has dispensed with that detail. The executive branch is now the final arbiter as to what is and is not legal.

And our Democratically-controlled Congress? They are perfectly comfortable with an administration that treats its pronouncements as optional, and considers compliance with its subpoenas unnecessary.

Now the Congress has taken yet another giant step toward its own irrelevance and the irrelevance of the judiciary. The Bush Administration has claimed that what FISA said is no longer of any consequence -- the Justice Department told AT&T and Verizon to violate what we quaintly call the law; that should be good enough for us all. The law Congress actually passed matters not; how a court would rule based on that law is equally vestigial. The President has spoken; all that remains is for the rest of us to obey.

As Greenwald notes, Froomkin has pointed out
that these companies were just doing what they were told by the Government -- and then asks rhetorically: "isn't that the very definition of a police state: that companies should do whatever the government asks, even if they know it's illegal?"

It isn't just a police state; this seamless dovetailing of the state and its corporate partners is fascism. And it is fascism that has been embraced by a significant number of nominal Democrats. The policy Attorney General Mukasey has announced, and that Congress has now embraced, is that the President is, in effect, inerrant. If the executive branch decides that a policy is legal, no court will be permitted to differ. If the President decides a law is improper, no step Congress can take can redress their pique (assuming, for the sake of argument, they can muster any).

Previous fascists had a word for this. They called it "Führerprinzip." Now it seems a bunch of alleged liberals have joined their unanimous conservative colleagues in embracing it anew.

Thus my startling conclusion about Jonah Goldberg's otherwise laughable scholarship. If Diane Feinstein is a liberal, then liberal fascism is real. If Jim Webb is a liberal, then the Hitler mustache on the smiley face is appropriate. If Harry Reid calls himself a liberal, then there isn't much daylight between the ur-fascists and at least some modern liberals.

For the last few years I have been pushing back against the abandonment by lefties of the word "liberal" in favor of "progressive." But at this point I want nothing to do with any term these despicable human beings would embrace.

They're all yours, Jonah.


Blogger Eric Soderstrom said...

That Goldberg book is really bothering me. It's one of those books that just screams to be refuted. I watched the author flounder on The Daily Show. And I know it's just a bunch of crap thrown together to a.) further denegrate the term "liberal" and b.) provide cover for the real fascism in the Bush administration and the neocon cabal behind the curtain.

And, of course, the response I would get is, "Well have you read the book?" And, of course, the answer is "No." I'm reading Dave Egger's "What Is The What?" right now. And even if I wasn't, I would not waste my time or money on Jonah's nonsense.

I enjoyed this post, but I also think you are helping with b.) by invoking the book in the context of our disastrous congress. Liberal isn't our word, anyway, but it is used on right wing radio and in the MSM, and we are sort of stuck with it.

Sorry, I'm rambling a bit - I just want that stupid book to die a quick death.

On the telecom bill, I am also irate. That's my industry. And their behavior was shameful. And they should be punished for knowingly violating the law. It is my sincere hope that the smart folks behind the lawsuits will fit their camel through the eye of some loophole in a hastily prepared bill.

And I wrote Barb and DiFi on this issue. At least Barbara voted the right way. I mean the Left way. I mean, the progressive way. And DiFi? When are her term limits up?

And good post - you're back in the saddle.

7:42 PM  
Blogger bluememe said...

esoder, I agree with you that obfuscation is the real purpose of the Goldberg's endeavor. Now "fair and balanced" journalists will all intone that "some say fascism is a right-wing phenomenon, but others..." And David Horowitz will soon call jihad against a professor who flunks a proto-pantload who cites Goldberg in a term paper.

But I don't agree that calling bullshit on DiFi and her partners in crime assists in Jonah's mission. Damning Eichmann did not excuse Hitler. I think you may be stuck in the same outmoded paradigm that I believed until a few months ago.

The old labels (Dem v. Republican, liberal vs. conservative) don't seem to have any truth value at this point. I am not willing to concede that there is any meaningful, principled difference between Cheney and DiFi. They look different; they sound different; as long as nothing important is at stake, they may appear adversarial. But when it counts, they act the same.

I have another book for your reading list: Goldhagen's "Hitler's Willing Executioners." (I do not endorse his more recent writing about Islam.) One of the stillborn columns on my hard drive was titled "Bush's Willing Executioners," and it was about the complicity of the very asshats I now excoriate.There is enough blood on Democratic hands that none of them ought to get a free pass on account of having a "D" after their names.

10:53 PM  
Blogger Eric Soderstrom said...

Fresh ground pepper?

I'm not stuck in that paradigm - but I have yet to find labels for a new one. It's something like the haves and their enablers vs. the have nots and those who vote for the enablers.

I have no problem with calling DiFi on her B.S. My problem is calling her liberal. In re-reading the post, I see you put an "if" in front of her being a liberal.

And holy crap, I just checked the roll call and Clinton is listed as NOT VOTING!!!! After trying to nail Obama for his not voted record in the debate!

What's wrong with Reid? Just that he isn't getting anything done or anyone indicted?

1:21 AM  
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