L’etat c’est moi

Or, to translate Louis XIV, the infamous 17th century absolute ruler of France, “I am the State.”  Unfortunately, Louis is a relevant political figure these days as George Bush has adopted a doctrine towards his powers in the war on terror that I've now read in a couple places is really not all that distinguishable from Louis' proclamation that he was the state.  Its not that George W. Bush is above the law when it comes to the war on terror, it is that he is the law.  Or so the White House has argued (but fortunately the Supreme Court rebutted). 

A terrific article in last weeks New Yorker goes into great detail about David Addington, Dick Cheney's chief of staff and legal adviser, who is almost single-handedly responsible for formulating White House policy on presidential power.  In summary, when it comes to the war on terror there are basically no limits on the president's power.  Not Congress, not the Supreme Court.  Nobody.  And who determines what actions are related to the war on terror?  Why the president of course.  This is obviously an extraordinarily disturbing argument to be coming from the presidency in a country who's founding was based on rejecting just this sort of centralized, unchecked authority.  The article mentions many, many figures, most of them conservatives within the CIA, the Military, the State Department, etc., and career government administrators who are (appropriately) aghast at this policy direction.  Addington has also been the source of justification for the administration's use of torture.  His basic argument is not necessarily pro-torture, but rather, if the president wants to, there's nothing to stop him. 

As I said, I think this was a fascinating article, but I think it let Bush off too easily.  Addington has provided the (morally and historically bankrupt) intellectual foundations for these administrative decisions, but the President himself has, of course, had to sign off on all of them.  Anyway you look at it, your choices come down to 1) the President is likely the most power-hungry autocrat want-to-be to be ever to hold the office in our nation's history; or 2) he is not bright enough to understand the implications of these policies regarding presidential power that he is approving.  Either way, not a pretty picture.  Anyway, do think about reading the article

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