Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Tears of Straw, Politics of Fear

In recent comments, Attorney General Mukasey appeared on the verge of tears recalling the victims of 9/11, while arguing for increased surveillance powers. On, Glenn Greenwald busts Mukasey for his astonishing claim of an unintercepted phone call that could have averted 9/11, and his total straw man argument. If there really were such a call, there's no reason the FISA warrant requirements would have interfered with its interception. It's unimagineable that Mukasey could be unaware of this. The far more plausible explanation is that he is deliberately being disingenuous, playing the 9/11 fear card to further the erosion of reasonable constitutional protections. As Greenward noted, this sorry episode reveals Mukasey to be no better than Gonzales in being willing to sacrifice the very Constitution that he has sworn to uphold, in the service of increasing the unaccountability of executive power.

The episode also made clearer in my mind the surprising resemblance between the executive styles of President Bush and Would-Be President Clinton. President Bush has shown himself eager to fan the 9/11-inspired flames of fear in order to expand executive privilege, power, secrecy, and unaccountability. We need to simply trust him with unaccountable secrets, or else another terrorist attack is inevitable. He does not advance his policies by sober and reasonable argument, nor by leveling with the American people about actual threats and sacrifices. He appeals to fear. "Fear the terrorists, trust me to make you safe, and meanwhile, you all keep on consuming as if we're not at war." That's the Bush message. Now I can't help but wonder, is Hillary "Who do you want to answer that red phone at 3am?" Clinton any different? Her appeal is also to fear. The whole "3am red phone" campaign was designed to appeal to fear. She wants us to blindly trust in her experience, and not ask too many questions. (Especially when her experience turns out to be largely imaginary.) She'd be fine with Bush-style unchecked executive power, as long as she's the executive. We've seen how much Clinton values transparency and accountability. She has yet to respond to Obama's challenge to disclose her tax returns and her earmarks. She's all for secrecy. And accountability? Not so much. In sum, if you'd like to see a continuation of the Bush policies of expanding executive secrecy while reducing accountability, and justifying it all by appeals to fear, then Clinton is your candidate.

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