Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Life, Death and George W. Bush

When it comes to issues of life and death, George W. Bush is a strange figure.

Yesterday, on the 34th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision, the President rallied abortion opponents by saying he shares their goal of, "the day when every child is welcomed in life and protected into law."

The statement would seem to indicate that two of the President's highest values are the protection of human life and the rule of law. While I fall firmly on the pro-choice side of the reproductive rights issue, on the balance, protection of human life and the rule of law are values that I can and do embrace. It might even seem as though the President and I have found common ground.

But sadly, for our President these values seem to end at the opening of the birth canal.

For when we dig deeper, we find that the Bush record has been decidedly anti-life. Here's just a sample:

• As Governor of Texas he signed 154 death warrants. In fact, in a magazine article with Tucker Carlson, he mocked the pleas of convicted murderer Karla Faye Tucker, who had recently been put to death.

• He launched the United States into a war in Iraq that to date, has resulted in over 3,000 U.S. casualties and the deaths of thousands of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

• He has vetoed funding for embryonic stem cell research, research with the potential to lead to breakthroughs in the understanding and treatment of cancer, alzheimers and parkinsons, even though the embryos that they would be taken from would be destroyed regardless.

It seems that whenever given the opportunity to show that he values life, Mr. Bush instead chooses death.

Recently a new twist emerged. In an enlightening interview with 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley, the President seemed to be uncomfortable with actually viewing death. When asked about the video of the execution of Saddam Hussein, the President had this to say:

“Somebody showed me parts of it. Yeah. I didn't wanna watch the whole thing,”

“Well, you keep saying ‘parts of it.’ What do you mean you ‘didn't wanna watch the whole thing?’” Pelley asks.

“Well, I just, I wasn't sure what to anticipate beyond the yelling and stuff like that. And I didn't…,” Bush says.

“You didn't wanna see him go through the trapdoor,” Pelley asks.

“Yeah. Yes. I didn't,” the president says.


I did watch the video: The whole video. I heard the taunting and saw Hussein drop through the trap door. I saw the snap of the rope and his body swinging from the end of it; his neck wrenched at an unnatural angle. As an opponent of the death penalty, I believed it was my responsibility to view it, to come face to face with that which I oppose.

I'll concede, that if the death penalty is moral, there are few individuals more deserving of it than Saddam Hussein. But that's not the point.

The point is, that we have a President who is willing to authorize the death of others, who formulates policies that lead to tremendous loss of life, but when faced with having to really look at it, does not have the stomach to do so. It makes me think that the rehabilitation techniques of "A Clockwork Orange" maybe weren't so far off the mark.

Perhaps if Mr. Bush were made to really see death, he would not so willingly send others to it.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The "Decider" Does It Again

"The executive branch shall construe subsection 404(c) of title 39, as enacted by subsection 1010(e) of the act, which provides for opening of an item of a class of mail otherwise sealed against inspection, in a manner consistent, to the maximum extent permissible, with the need to conduct searches in exigent circumstances, such as to protect human life and safety against hazardous materials, and the need for physical searches specifically authorized by law for foreign intelligence collection.

Thus reads the signing statement that President Bush added to the Postal Reform Act. A signing statement is the President's final two cents on how he plans to interpret a bill that he has just signed into law. In many cases, particularly those dealing with issues of privacy, Mr. Bush has added statements that are contradictory to the law that he has just signed, or in which he claims the privilege to simplyignore the law. There's just one thing.

The Constitution affords him no right to do so. A President's signature means a bill becomes law, as written.

Much of the Postal Reform Act deals with how future increases in postage will occur, tying them to the Consumer Price Index. But a section within the act clarifies and reiterates the conditions under which the government is permitted to inspect and open mail. Specifically, it states, " The law requires government agents to get warrants to open first-class letters." It is this segment of the law that the President's signing statement addresses. Few would argue that government agents should be disallowed from opening packages that clearly contain materials hazardous to the public health and welfare. But the President takes it one step further by claiming the right to conduct physical searches of mail, without warrant, for the benefit of intelligence collection. This is a knowing and conscious violation of the law.

By adding these words on the day that the newly elected and Democratically controlled Congress was sworn in, Mr. Bush clearly signaled his intent to continue his policy of disregarding constitutional rights. He would do well to remember the first President George who when it was proposed that he be King of the United States had the wisdom to decline. Mr. Washington knew that a democracy is about the will of the people, not the will of one man. Sadly our George seems to have more in common with the other George of Washington's time; George the III of England. We shouldn't be surprised. Mr. Bush best summed up his view of executive authority when he said, "I'm the decider, and I decide what is best." Apparently he has once again decided to ignore the rule of law and the requirement of first obtaining a warrant before delving into a person's privacy.

Moreover, it would appear that the great decider has decided to give the big F-bomb You to the American people who so roundly rejected this style of leadership during last November's elections.