When people talk about "criminalizing policy differences", there's a crucial, question-begging assumption, namely: that no one actually broke the law.When liberals talk about "holding the Bush administration to account" and other colorful varieties of that species of songbird, there's a crucial, question-begging assumption, namely that "the Presidency is a public trust, not a license for criminality." Well, if you just learn to think of him a sovereign instead of a citizen. What was that delightful phrase of the early Roman emperors? Primus inter pares? Or of our own scowling would-be Augustus: if the President does it, it's not illegal.
-Hilzoy at the Washington Monthly
I don't mean to be a killjoy, but the wagon train has long since rolled West on the circumscribed presidency. The train has left the station. The ship has sailed. The toothpaste has left the tube. If it comforts them, Democratic partisans can believe that their glorious leader "ended torture as one of his first acts in office," but the more realistic reading is that he codified a public policy whereby the United States tortures prisoners in extremis, during hot warfare or following terrorist attacks, but will not go all France-in-Algeria every time it commits resources to this or that colonial war around the world. The yet more realistic reading is that the United States returns to the status quo ante of keeping its torture private--distant Bagram the obvious counterpart to nearby Guantanamo and all that.
In any case, just the other day the radio told me that the first gang of US soldiers was transferred directly from Iraq to Afghanistan. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200.