RSS feed for entries


The constitutional crisis continues

Like Alterman, and like Gore in his more formal way, I keep wondering: what if they gave a constitutional crisis and nobody noticed?

Strike that. There’s no “what if” about it. It started years ago.

Thousands of voters in Florida in 2000 tried to vote for Gore. A candidate who values democracy would have conceded. Bush had his people on the ground declare the votes invalid, even though this was against Florida law (FS 101.5614(4) text below*). Instead, they focused the excitement on hanging chads in ballots they couldn’t disqualify. The media were told by the people throwing out votes that it was legal, and they uncritically believed them. Everybody, Gore included, Congress included, and the Florida legal system included, was too embarrased to notice the election being stolen. The Supremes selected a president, and the media went back to gossiping about sex.

The next constitutional crisis was lying the country into the Iraq war. At the time–not in hindsight–there was the curious unwillingness to share information with the international inspectors. The US said it knew about all sorts of stuff, but for some reason refused to tell the inspectors where to look. Then there was satellite imagery of a chemical or biological weapons site mentioned in some major speech (Powell to the UN?) that turned out to be chicken coops once inspected on the ground. This publicly available information should have been enough to make Congress suspicious, even without any classified data. Instead, they did their best not to notice the lies, the media did their best not to notice the lies, and everyone pretended that trusting the president was the extent of their job.

People die because of these constitutional crises. They’re not just something quaint out of a book.

The illegal war soon morphed into bigger crimes. People were being tortured at US-run jails. Torture is a crime against humanity, by any measure. It is against the Geneva Convention, which is a ratified treaty and therefore the law of the land. It violates every spirit of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, whose whole purpose was to protect individuals from abuse of state power. The Administration started by making excuses. “A few bad apples.” It then tried to twist legal language into justifying unjustifiable crime. It outsourced its torture needs and said its hands were clean. It went on and on. It still goes on. People were horrified and disgusted, but they didn’t seem to notice the president was breaking the law. They elected him, instead.

Now we have warrantless wiretapping. Also illegal. Another constitutional crisis. Some in the media report polls asking, “Is it okay to wiretap potential terrorists without a warrant?”

Um. Hello? That’s not the question. Quakers are being tapped. Vegans are being tapped. Gore makes the point in his speech that authoritarianism and secrecy cause incompetence. It is not an accidental byproduct. Anyone who needs more proof should think about the clear evidence that communications about the actual 9/11 attacks were available beforehand and got lost in the shuffle. The Administration’s idea of a “solution” is to make a hugely bigger shuffle and read Grandma’s library records. Without a warrant.

Once again, we’re being told not to look at the constitutional crisis. The Administration, for obvious reasons, would rather we didn’t look. Congress suffers from vast money hunger, brought on by the need to buy broadcast time, and has little attention for anything else. The judiciary is supposed to keep its mouth shut. That leaves the media.

The US media are run for profit. Entertainment is more, well, entertaining than information. So the news only gets out to the extent that viewers are entertained by it. It has to be gripping and not annoying to the viewer. Constitutional crises are neither.

The situation seems hopeless, but who knows, maybe those who have a dream can pull us back from the brink again. Abraham Lincoln said during the Civil War, “We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

When do we start?

Elizabeth Holtzman, The Impeachment of George W. Bush, The Nation, Jan 30, 2006

Gore’s Martin Luther King Day speech

Jonathan Alter, Newsweek, A Power Outage on Capitol Hill

Avedon Carol, Sideshow, On Media
Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo

Some earlier posts on this blog that are relevant: Democracy Doesn’t Work, as well as posts about torture, conservatives, redistricting, and most of the blog, in fact….

Information about the 2000 election:
Maia Cowan Failure is impossible
with details in: Paul Lukasiak Lost Votes and Stolen Election

*From the latter:
FS 101.5614(4) specifies that every ballot containing a potential write-in vote must be examined by a human being, and that the ballots must be counted separately from the machine-counted ballots.

…For each ballot or ballot and ballot envelope on which write-in votes have been cast, the canvassing board shall compare the write-in votes with the votes cast on the ballot card; if the total number of votes for any office exceeds the number allowed by law, a notation to that effect, specifying the office involved, shall be entered on the back of the ballot card or in a margin if voting areas are printed on both sides of the ballot card. Such votes shall not be counted. All valid votes shall be tallied by the canvassing board.

[Note: as I understand it, the votes in question did not involve *conflict* between the candidate marked in the machine-scannable part of the form and the write-in name. Instead *both* mark and write-in were present. The irony is that the voters were trying to emphasize their support for the chosen candidate. It also meant the ballots could not be read by machine, but they were not “overvotes.” Only one candidate was selected on the ballot.]

FS 101.5614(8) makes it clear that write-in votes and manually counted votes are to be tallied separately from machine-tabulated votes.

The return printed by the automatic tabulating equipment, to which has been added the return of write-in, absentee, and manually counted votes, shall constitute the official return of the election.

Technorati tags: constitutional crisis, impeachment, Gore, Holtzman, Bush