Tuesday, January 24


Here's how Chris Matthews just framed the debate over the president's illegal spy program:

It's a matter of whether you want to have a Big Brother -- who's good at protecting you! -- or whether you don't want a Big Brother. In other words, if you don't want a BB, you won't get any protection.

Oops, he just expanded the analogy. It's whether you want a country where the security is very good -- perfect -- or whether you want a country that isn't so safe but you have a few more freedoms.

ARRGGHH!!! It's that kind of fuzzy thinking from a person with a big loud platform that is dragging this country to ruin.

First of all, the Big Brother to which he refers -- Dubya and his incompetent administration -- hasn't proven to be very good at protecting us. See here.

Second, we have arguably faced worse threats to our nation and have survived them without the executive violating our Constitutional rights.

Though the War of 1812 was a dire crisis (New York was invaded, New Orleans was attacked, Detroit fell, the White House itself was burned), Madison undertook no extra-legal maneuvers. Toward the end of his long life, he reflected that the American Framers were distinguished not by their understanding of rights but by their appreciation of institutions. "The rights of man as the foundations of just government had been long understood," he said, "but the superstructures projected had been sadly defective." Structure, Madison understood, was the key to sustainability.

Bush keeps a bust of Winston Churchill in his office. But after four years, World War II was ending and Churchill was soon to be thrown out of office. The war on terrorism is still just beginning, and Bush has three years left. If only someone would give him a bust of Madison.

It's not an either/or proposition. The United States of America has stood among the world community of nations as a beacon for institutionally prescribed and protected basic rights for its citizens. At a time when our global prestige has sadly deteriorated, largely as a result of Bush administration policies, and terrorist "tough guys" and unfriendly nations challenge global security, we dare not allow ourselves to be seen as so faint-hearted that we would surrender the basic tenets that founded, and have for more than two centuries served as the framework undergirding the success of the American democracy experiment. If we do, frankly, the experiment will fail.

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