Decider decided decidedly wrong

declaration of independence

Supremes to W: What part of "rule of law" don't you get?

What Supreme timing! Just as we are about to celebrate the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence against a tyrant named George, the Supreme Court once again ruled against another George with decidedly authoritarian tendencies in the case of Hamdan vs Rumsfeld et al. For the second time (the first was in 2004), the Supremes told W that the War on Terror didn't give him a "blank check" to do whatever he pleased, laws, treaties, and the Constitution be damned. By a vote of 5 to 3, the Justices let The Decider know he decided wrong when he began to work "the dark side," as Vice calls it:

Equal justice under the law
  • Yes, the Geneva conventions for treatment of prisoners do apply, and yes, you do have to follow them
  • No, the president can't make up his own court system on the fly
  • Yes, the courts do have a role "in both peace and war, to preserve the constitutional safeguards of civil liberty."
  • No, the executive branch cannot just ignore the courts and congress

It will be interesting to see how the Bushies spin compliance with the ruling. For example, Will they drop the phony classification "enemy combatant" and call the prisoners what they are "prisoners of war"? Will they be any less truculent when dealing with Congress? And for that matter, Will Congress discover any more spine in exercising their oversight?

It is also significant that even if Chief Justice Roberts had voted in this case (he recused himself because he had already ruled on it in favor of Rumsfeld et al as an appellate judge), the verdict would still have been 5 to 4 against the Bushies.

What a great way to celebrate this most patriotic of holidays by reaffirming some of the bedrock principles on which the country was founded!

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, Bush and Cheney decided they would act first and seek permission or forgiveness later, setting aside many of the usual restraints imposed by a three-branch government of checks and balances and previously-signed international agreements, such as the Geneva Conventions on the conduct of war and treatment of prisoners. Americans, in general, like leaders who take decisive action in times of crisis, and, at first, gave W high marks for his response. (It's instructive to read Karl Rove's reflections on Theodore Roosevelt in the current issue of Time magazine.) But over time, it is inevitable and right to pull back from the excesses of those first reactions as cooler heads prevail. Public disenchantment with W can be understood, in part, as the American people having a better understanding of "rule of law" than many of our current "leaders" have.

With the Fourth of July drawing near — Independence Day — it is instructive to actually read the Declaration of Independence. It sets forth a "history of repeated injuries and usurpations," specific grievances against King George of Great Britain, and several of them ring true of the behavior of George W some 200+ years later. On July 4, Wannabe-King George W Bush is sure to give patriotic speeches somewhere. It would be helpful and beneficial to him if he would take the occasion to read the Declaration that he will extol: US Declaration of Independence (text)

A few editorial cartoonists have already weighed in. See sidebar.