Monday, May 14, 2007

A Monday post --- just because.

Here is Charlie Pierce @ Altercation, saying something worth repeating. The presidential primary campaigns start too early, they are too crowded--you hear those complaints a lot--but here is another major reason why they are so unsatisfying right now:

For me, the biggest problem I have with the ongoing presidential campaign is that it is a context in which the most serious issue arising from the last seven years can't be seriously debated -- namely, the egregiously anti-constitutional expansion of executive power based of legal theories that seem to be derived from whatever Prussia has for magic mushrooms. It hasn't even come up, as near as I can recall, in either debate, and it's manifestly more serious than, say, abortion. It is the central place from which all of the depredations of the Avignon Presidency have issued -- whether that be unlimited warmaking power, the misuse of signing statements, the politicization of the Department of Justice, Gitmo and Abu Ghraib, the old energy task force and on and on. Only by breaking that power, and by burying forever the legal philosophy on which it's based, can you begin to clean up the wreckage. The problem is that there's no way to run for president on a platform of weakening the office. All you can do is say that you'll handle the power better and more responsibly than this guy did -- which is exactly the same as saying your seamanship's better than Captain Joe Hazlewood's is. I've long felt that the Constitution sadly lacked a serious voting constituency, largely because we've become so illiterate about our political and philosophical heritage. This campaign is going to be the grisliest evidence of that yet.

Emphasis added. My effort to say something similar once was here. Thinking about it, I wish there was a way to run for President that touts the symbolic or intangible strength of the Oval Office but rejects the unitary-executive theory (that's an arcane enough phrase that it might have dog-whistle properties) and endorses the idea that Congress has a job to do and the branches ought to work collegially. But certainly nobody is campaigning that way; and no Republican ever would due to their reliance on fear and authoritarianism and the Strong Daddy model of the presidency. The Constitution remains an unloved but wounded constituent.

Atrios reports on a controversy in the Philadelphia mayoral race: "quien es mas Catolica." Putting on my religious-lefty hat for a moment, this doesn't disturb me unduly. What Knox has done is rather sleazy, IMO, in the classic manner of last-minute attack leaflets that leave no fingerprints and little time for the target to respond. But sure, if religiosity is going to be deployed in the campaign, then questions of sincerity or phoniness are basically fair game.

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