The coming coup
Could George W. Bush orchestrate a coup d'etat? Merriam-Webster defines coup d'etat 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 Plamegate indictments 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" Karl Rove and VP Dick Cheney's Chief of Staff Scooter Libby 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.