As Long as the Danger Remains

According to the NY Times President Bush vetoed a bill Saturday that “would have explicitly prohibited the [the CIA] from using interrogation methods like waterboarding…” They go on to observe that,

“as his presidency winds down he has made it clear he does not intend to bend in this or other confrontations on issues from the war in Iraq to contempt charges against his chief of staff, Joshua B. Bolten, and former counsel, Harriet E. Miers.

Mr. Bush announced the veto in the usual format of his weekly radio address. He unflinchingly defended the program… . “Because the danger remains, we need to ensure our intelligence officials have all the tools they need to stop the terrorists,” he said.”

In a way its nice that Bush has finally clarified for the American people what the conservative movement is about. For decades the rhetoric of conservatives like Goldwater and Buckley and Newt and Limbaugh and many others including Bush–has centered on a ringing defense of liberty: free markets, low taxes, rule of law and strict constructionists on the Supreme Court.

Now its clear that the rhetoric of freedom is a thin veneer, and you don’t have to scratch very hard anymore to find the core of conservatism in America: authoritarian government. It’s not just that Bush and his fellow conservatives display an affection for torture. It’s more their generalized contempt for law, and the elected body that passes those laws, Congress. When the GOP was in charge of Congress they couldn’t roll over fast enough to preserve, protect, and defend anything the president wanted to do. Now that the Democrats are in control, Bush just ignores Congress, asserting absolute authority as commander in chief.

Note that Bush doesn’t defend his actions by reference to a declared war, or even a military action. There doesn’t even need to be an emergency. As Bush describes it, his power will be absolute as long as the “danger remains”. Any guesses on how long that might be?

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