The Lonely Centrist

A place for reasoned debate about the issues of the day.

See my complete profile

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Finally Asking the Right Question

The revelation about the Adminstration's secret spying program is troubling. The unwillingness of many on the left to take seriously the terrorist threat makes one instinctively sympathetic to the President, but even his most cool-headed supporters find this appropriately troubling.

Senator Carl Levin, ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, asks, "Where does he find in the Constitution the authority to tap the wires and the phones of American citizens without any court oversight?" This is an excellent question, exactly the question Congress ought to ask, and the President should have asked.

I do not wish to minimize the importance of this issue - the war against terrorism is the most important issue facing the country today, and far too many people treat it far too cavalierly - whether it is the Howard Dean and Democrats in Congress, and even more some of their far-out friends in the blogosphere, that refuse to take the threat seriously, and can only think of partisan advantage, or whether it is the Administration and some of its more aggressive supporters, who seem to be offended that anyone would question warrantless domestic spying, let alone torture as a means of interrogation.

But that said, the Centerman wishes that Mr. Levin's question - "Where in the Constitution does he find the authority?" - were asked a bit more often on Capitol Hill. Where is the authority for Congress to regulate campaign expenditures and contributions? Where is the authority for "No Child Left Behind" and the entire Department of Education?" Where is the authority for the "Gun Free School Zone" act? Where is the authority for the Department of Energy? Where, quite frankly, is the authority for much, much, much of what Congress does?

The Centerman understands that lawyers, judges, and law professors have crafted arguments finding such authority in the Constitution, but such authority would not be apparent to the normal person, and the question is rarely even asked. Moreover, the theories that find authority for Congress to play such a dominant role in our lives rely on expansive interpretations of Constitutional language.

But he who lives by the sword dies by the sword. You cannot hold that the Constitution is malleable and expandable when you want it to be, and then express shock when a President does the same thing and audaciously interprets his own powers, as Commander in Chief, in a similarly sweeping fashion.

One would like to think that the President's critics would recognize this after the spying debate is over, but the Centerman has no illusions that this will be the case.

  • The Skeptic
  • Andrew Sullivan
  • Michael Barone
  • The New Republic
  • National Review
  • Democracy Project
  • Bob Bauer
  • Center for Competitive Politics
  • Ryan Sager
  • Going to the Matt
  • Professor Bainbridge
  • Volokh Conspiracy
  • Mystery Pollster
  • Amitai Etzioni
  • Alexander Chrenkoff
  • Middle East Media Research Institute
  • Right Democrat
  • Democrats for Life