The recent FISA capitulation by the legislative branch represents just a glimpse into a wider arching problem that is confronting our U.S. Constitutional framework and how it has been subterfuged by the Bush Administration. I've had government officials tell me over and over again, "it's the law, if you want the law changed, go through the process to change it." We as citizens don't get to pick and choose which laws we obey. In theory, government officials in the executive branch don't get to pick and choose which laws they enforce. Admittedly, they often have to prioritize where to place their limited enforcement resources, but there should never be this presumption, that the law doesn't apply to them.
Enter the Bush Administration, the greatest challenge to Constitutional government we may have ever had as a republic. What is compelling and alarming, is the pattern of lawbreaking without accountability you see in the Bush II era. Violations of FISA surveillance laws is just the tip of the iceberg. Violations by the Bush Administration of torture laws, international treaties such as the Geneva Conventions, illegal detainments, and perhaps most interestingly, "signing statements" indicating which parts of legislation the executive deems worthy of imperial consideration. Bush has vetoed relatively few pieces of legislation. The reason, he has declared through "signing statements", that he alone gets to determine what is effectively, the law of the land.
The blatant and pervasive contempt for the rule of law, would have been harshly addressed just a generation ago. Republicans and Democrats would have for the most part discarded partisan divisions in order to preserve the rule of law. In today's partisan environment, Republicans in lock-step fashion block Democrats from preserving the rule of law, knowing that enough Democrats will be cowed by fear of enflaming the authoritarian conservative masses, to play with them.
This contempt for the rule of law is why I am not afraid to criticize Democrats when they empower those who would abuse the rule of law. Failure to do so, puts me on par with Republicans, who reject the rule of law when a Republican is in power, but use it as a blunt force weapon if a Democrat should hold office.
What it comes down to, is respect for the law. Our loyalties must be to the law, not to those who govern us and certainly not to their party offiliation or political philosophy. If we disagree with the law, we have recourse to change it. But when we shred the most basic fabric that holds a Constitutional society together, we are exposed to an amoral world, where power rules over principle, and we are vulnerable to those who would exercise power over us. The degree to which we have descended down an authoritarian path, is shocking. And when liberal bloggers such as myself are shrugged off as "extremist malcontents", I know for a fact, our Republic is in danger.
Sorry to preach.