Thursday, February 02, 2006

AJC: Bush offers false choices

Blogger keeps acting up--I tried to post this twice yesterday but couldn't. It's a great editorial in the AJC on the SOTU... here are some excerpts:

...The main thrust of his 2006 speech, like that of his presidency and re-election campaign, was terrorism, war and national security. As always, the president cast his policies as a success, warning that any deviation from his course would weaken the nation and leave us vulnerable.

"In this decisive year, you and I will make choices that determine both the future and the character of our country," he said. "We will choose to act confidently in pursuing the enemies of freedom or retreat from our duties in the hope of an easier life."

That choice is a false choice, implying that anything other than the Bush approach would be retreat. In fact, the president has already failed the test of character he would set for the nation, having retreated significantly from the goals he himself established in his State of the Union speech in 2002.

In that speech, delivered barely four months after the terror attacks on New York and Washington, Bush called out the members of "the axis of evil" one by one, warning them of dire consequences if they did not change their ways.

Iraq, he said, "continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade."

With those words the president set the stage for our later invasion of Iraq, which turned up not a trace of weapons of mass destruction and now looms as the most disastrous foreign policy mistake in our history. In fact, U.S. foreign policy in the next 25 years will be challenged just to manage the consequences of that mistake.

North Korea, the second member of the axis, "is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction," Bush warned us in 2002, a situation his administration said could not be tolerated. But in the four years since then, U.S. policy has not forced North Korea to waver one inch from that dangerous course.

"I will not wait on events while dangers gather," the president promised Congress in 2002. "I will not stand by as peril draws closer and closer...."

But the president who would not stand by is in reality standing by, largely because his administration's incompetence and misjudgment have left him no option.

In his speech last night, the president also defended his decision to allow electronic surveillance of U.S. citizens without getting judicial approval as required both by federal law and the U.S. Constitution. He and others have cast the choice in stark terms, falsely implying that his critics oppose surveillance needed to protect us from attack. ...

In truth, his critics merely argue that the surveillance be conducted in accordance with federal law, the same law the president has sworn to faithfully execute and that other presidents have followed in much tougher times.

In 1978, during the heart of the Cold War and under the threat of potential nuclear annihilation, Congress passed a law allowing robust surveillance of overseas targets, but with checks and balances built into the law to protect our liberties against government encroachment. In effect, Bush has taken it upon himself to repeal that law.

By doing so, he becomes the legislative branch, claiming for himself the sole power to set national policy no matter what federal law states. He becomes the judicial branch, claiming for himself the power to decide whether spying on U.S. citizens is reasonable and justified.

Our Founding Fathers understood from experience that unchecked power soon goes awry. In his five years as president, Bush has confirmed the wisdom of that insight time and time again, and nothing he said last night can erase that record.


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