Bush Doesn’t Get “Near Dictatorial Powers”

Although he certainly acts like he thinks he has full dictatorial powers.

Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard is smoking something strange, and Glenn calls him on it:

So apparently, the American Founders risked their lives and fortunes in order to wage war against Great Britain and declare independence from the King — all in order to vest “near dictatorial power” in the American President in all matters of foreign policy and national security.

Goldfarb seems to think that when Hamilton described a Roman “Dictator” with “absolute power,” he was describing what he hoped the new American President would be. Does that argument need any refutation?

Apparently it does.  Especially since the media seems so taken by his office that they invest the President with more power and authority than he actually has.  Like calling him our Commander in Chief, for example.  Glenn continues:

One of the principal purposes of the Federalist Papers — which Goldfarb obscenely cites as though it supports his twisted views of dictatorial omnipotence in America — was to assuage widespread concerns (or, as Scalia put it, “mistrust”) that the President would be, in essence, a new British King.

Its kind of like citing the Bible as an excuse for hating poor immigrants and poor people.

Theoretical disputes aside, Americans who believe in the defining political principals of this country ought to find the phrase “near dictatorial power” to be intrinsically repugnant. But The Weekly Standard and comrades don’t believe in those principles, and hence can openly embrace that phrase. Although that is not exactly news, it is still always valuable to highlight when their declarations of what they really are find such explicit expression.

Every single attempt to change the way we talk about our government ought to be met with a critical and ready mind.  Outside of Bush’s incredibly low approval ratings, outside of a new Democratic majority with a backbone, some in the media persist in worshipping the President.  They infuse the language we use to discuss the executive branch with intimations of absolute power and authority.  This changes the nature of the debate we have, and creates a false set of rules and constructions to have the debate in.  It is indeed “always valuable to highlight” this.  In fact it is essential.

Progressives often talk about reclaiming the frame on various issues.  There is no frame more powerful than language itself, and no issue more central to the soul of our nation than democracy and rank authoritarianism.


Between Censorship and Threats

The so called blogger code of conduct is creating some interesting discussions over at DailyKos, Pandagon, and Feministe:

Shorter Kos: She was asking for death threats, which she probably made up.

Via Jessica.

Amanda (Panda) is right on in her closing:

Not to say that the criticism about the blogger code of conduct is wrong, of course. I think that it’s naive to think that’s going to work, but again, the tech blogging crowd may be old hat at this. But you can engage in a criticism of that without trotting out the tired stereotype that women are hysterical and paranoid.

The crux of her critique falls on these lines from Kos’s post (emphasis mine):

Most of the time, said “death threats” don’t even exist — evidenced by the fact that the crying bloggers and journalists always fail to produce said “death threats”.

If they can’t handle a little heat in their email inbox, then really, they should try another line of work.

Talk about blaming the victim. The bloggers and journalists complaining are framed as whiny boys who cried wolf, who simply aren’t up to the task of being a public figure. While in some rare cases there may be some truth to this argument (viz mainstream journalists who create blogs, get legitimate criticism, then cry foul and “hate speech!”), there are enough cases where it doesn’t to make the argument ineffective. Of course, I cannot say for certain how rare or common the validity of death threats are. Neither can Kos (where does he get his “most of the time” from?). However we can say that some kinds of threats are by nature deadly (from Pandagon, emphasis mine):

When I first started blogging here, I had a hell of a time running around deleting my home address out of the comments of the blog here. That is a death/rape threat. Very rarely do people threaten to kill you outright, but they simply imply it. Your address in your comments=”I know where you live.

This is not just a death threat (a la “I’m gonna kill you!”), it is a “I’ve been stalking you and here is proof”. Worse, knowing that other readers may be harboring a desire to issue threats, carry through on threats, or “put them in their place”, doing so is an active invitation to real violence.

All of this being said, there are two legitimate criticisms of the code of conduct.  One is, as Kos notes, its efficacy.  The other is the one I think Kos actually meant to tackle by painting these threats as unsubstantial.  Some bloggers and journalists might use the notion of civility and a “code of conduct” to justify naked censorship.  This is something to be opposed to absolutely.  While censoring comments that actually threaten and espouse raw hatred makes sense, censoring based on disagreeable content does not.  It is right to be wary of the “code of conduct” being used for just that.