Wednesday, October 26, 2005

The coming coup

Could orchestrate a coup d'etat? Merriam-Webster defines as "a sudden decisive exercise of force in politics; especially: the violent overthrow or alteration of an existing government by a small group." Here in the US, we have a constitutional government. When the President is sworn into office, he takes the following oath: I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. If the President takes steps to suspend the Constitution, he is by definition engineering a coup. Still, most folks wouldn't see it that way. This essay by political scientist Daniel Hellinger covers the history of the suspension of civil liberties by US presidents. How many Americans remember (or ever learned) that Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus in 1861? Defying the Supreme Court, Lincoln imprisoned thousands of draft resisters and Southern sympathizers. Yet no one ever accuses Lincoln of orchestrating a coup, except perhaps those good ol' boys south of the Mason-Dixon Line who still fly the Confederate flag. Thanks to the Patriot Act, the US Constitution ain't what it used to be. At present, the Bush Administration's position is that they can throw anyone they like in jail -- indefinitely, without trial -- simply by claiming this is necessary for national security. George W. Bush can use this argument to overturn major sections of the Constitution, as detailed on this web page (scroll down to the list of potential executive orders). So: it's bad now, but it could get much worse. The s are hours away, and there's talk of an expansion of Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's scope to include George W. Bush's role in the Niger forgeries (the supposed "proof" of Saddam's nuclear WMD program). "Bush's brain" and VP 's Chief of Staff will almost certainly be indicted tomorrow. Will Cheney be named as an unindicted co-conspirator? Can Dubya weather the upheaval? This is a guy who has already laid claim to dictatorial powers. What will he do when his back is up against the wall? How far will he go? From the conclusion to Professor Hellinger's essay: Violence and international crisis have often raised the question of what balance should be struck between security and civil liberties. However, rather than defend the “homeland” from terrorist attacks, abridgement of civil liberties has more often been aimed at suppressing dissent, advancing some other agenda, or boosting the careers of unscrupulous politicians. Instead of boosting the careers, read protecting the careers. Considering that loyalty is one of Bush's obsessive traits, what will he do to protect his friends? I don't have much confidence in our President's self-restraint. I believe things could get mighty scary in the coming days and weeks. If the Executive branch of our government goes renegade, I worry that Congress will be too divided/conflicted/cowardly to defend our civil liberties. The Supreme Court may stand up for the US Constitution -- that is their job, after all -- but there are precedents for US presidents ignoring the SCOTUS. Lincoln did it (see above), as did Andrew Jackson*. But there's one more wild card out there. Take a look at the oath taken by our armed forces: I, _________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God. Coups can't fly unless the ruling cabal has the military's support. What will our generals do if they are faced with internal conflict between defense of the Constitution and obedience to the President? D. *The Removal Act of 1830 authorized the removal of all native peoples over a vast area east of the Mississippi River. The Cherokee took the case to the Supreme Court; Chief Justice Marshall ruled in their favor. President Jackson ignored the Supreme Court decree, stating, "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it." Note to my faithful readers: So y'all wanted humor and sex, not to mention more of me making a fool out of myself, and I gave you politics. Sue me. There's always tomorrow. Um, wait. Tomorrow's Fitzmas. How can I be funny about Fitzmas? I'll try to find a way. For now, if you're jonesing for sex & a laugh, check out Wickipedia's page on sexual slang -- but make sure you have at least a half hour to kill.


Blogger Jeff Huber said...


Good piece. The only thing I'd consider is that you include the enlisted oath of service, but not the officers'.

That one goes:

"I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."

No mention of the president or officers over you.

Interesting difference, especially in these times.


10/27/2005 05:27:00 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

I can't help but think of Stephen King's "The Stand" when considering wild possibilities like martial law, the nation in turmoil, and the crushing of dissent.

Let's look at W's past behavior. What has he done in life without regular "management" or supervision? He's pretty much been coddled and cleaned up after his entire life. That's the terrifying part. Who will he lean on when things really fall apart? or who will rein him in?

10/27/2005 06:21:00 AM  
Blogger Jeff Huber said...


Congress, that's who. Let's hope they're up to taking back their Constitutional powers and exercising them wisely.

10/27/2005 07:32:00 AM  
Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

Thanks, guys. Yes, the difference in oaths is interesting. I hope our officers take their oath seriously.

Never thought I'd see the day when I prayed our military would . . . oh, let's choose a judicious word . . . influence our elected officials, but these are strange times.

10/27/2005 08:07:00 AM  
Blogger THIS! Christine said...

One of the most interesting omissions I find in is the complete absence of the word treason in connection with the Valerie Plame leak. For a whoremongering media that thrives on the sensational, it doesn't get any better than treason, yet I haven't even heard a hint since the early days.

When the story first broke, all the networks jumped on such a juicy tidbit... a spy married to a US ambassador, then a few days later, some networks questioned what the implications were of releasing an operative's name. A few said the fateful words... act of treason, but no longer. Now it seems the biggest charge facing these people is perjury.


Is it or isn't it an act of treason? I guess a better question for me to ask is, what is the goal of Fitzgerald's grand jury investigation. Because I thought it was to find out who leaked the name and recommend action.


10/27/2005 07:32:00 PM  
Blogger Douglas Hoffman said...

I suspect treason is a tougher thing to prove. Rest assured, Fitzgerald's indictments will stick.

But is it treason? No doubt in my mind.

10/27/2005 08:09:00 PM  
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