« Nir Rosen on CNN - 24 June, 2007 | Main | "Jefferson might not agree.." Peter Principle »

27 June 2007


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Cold War Zoomie

If we followed the practice from Jefferson's days, Gore and Kerry would have been our VPs during the last six years.



That, I think, is perhaps the critical question. The following comment is at a slight tangent to your post but I hope you'll find it apropos.

What seems particularly disturbing is the degree to which mainstream debate seems confined within fairly strict boundaries. Not only by the political "elite" but also the media.

This notion is hardly new, of course (indeed it's been discussed here at length) but my comment is prompted by a belated reading of the transcript of Putin's interview with a group of G8 journalists in early June. What struck me as downright spooky is the contrast between the reporting I've seen by the MSM and what he actually said.

I'm not well enough informed to properly evaluate the validity of all his comments but it would seem difficult to maintain they weren't pretty radically distorted. While I don't see myself as harbouring too many illusions about the media, I confess to being a bit shocked in this case.

As someone infinitely more informed, I'd be most interested in your comments, not only on this specific instance but also more generally on how the republic can be kept when the level of debate is so effectively curtailed.


Jon Tupper

Colonel, Thank you and well said, especially the question at the end of the post.

Three references for contemplative reflection:
"The Origins of
Totalitarianism" by Hannah Arendt; "Walk on Water" an Israeli film by Eytan Fox; and Vandana Shiva

Then a question: is there
a Lech Walesa or Vaclav Havel or Abraham Lincoln or Dietrich Bonhoeffer in America today.

Not the United States;
That is a corporate slave. America: the heartland that gave the men and women that defeated the Third Reich. America. Yes there is. Where? We shall see.


it has taken six years for the mainstream media to put "what was unspoken" - cheney's unprecedented and unusual power" into words

i wonder when "what was unspoken - the president who created the unprecdented and unusal situation" will be put into words

ll be writng the story


Col. Lang:

"Who will save us now?" is indeed the right question.

But how about "ourselves" as the right answer? As you point out, our constitution already provides the blueprints for a successful republic, and if we would only stop electing those unschooled hacks (e.g., Cheney) who will not respect that constitution, we might save ourselves just fine from the worst problems of our day.

Need to quell religious jihads? Try the First Amendment's anti-establishment clause! Got problems with militias? Have a dose of the Second! Want to perform effective surveillance to help fight terrorism? Nothing works better than the informed-probable-cause legal techniques that respect the Fourth Amendment. And so it goes...

I think that Franklin's suggestion might be rephrased as "we have given you a republic, if you can just pay due attention to its founding documents in order to to keep it". Our founding fathers were political geniuses, and especially compared to the likes of Cheney or Murdoch or Dobson or Rove.

There are no woes in the world today that were not considered by Jefferson and Madison and Otis and the others who contributed to the foundations of this great nation. The details have certainly changed, but religious intolerance, ill-conceived wars, greed, and lust for power have been around far longer that this country. Our founding fathers gave us the right framework to constrain the worst woes of modern mankind.

We just need to pay more attention to following the blueprints...

Bill H.

One hopes this gentleman will once more be correct--"A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt...If the game runs sometime against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake."
Thomas Jefferson, 1798


Let's remember that The Constitution was written in secret by a Convention that superceded its authority to REVISE the Articles of Confederation, which did not work. The People were justly wary of the document, and had to be bribed with the Bill of Rights. Perhaps the best thing about it was that it could be amended to correct bloopers that resulted in the hung election of 1800. Some historians insist that Jefferson only won in the House of Reperesentatives because he cut a secret deal with the Federalists.

We still have no provision for a Popular Vote for President, but rely upon meetings by "notables" to decide for us. The bizarre 2000 Election turned the U.S. into an International JOKE.

At the 1980 Republican Convention the idea was bruted about that nominee Ronald Reagan would award the Vice Presidency to Gerald Ford, but with enhanced powers as befitting a former President. When Walter Cronkite described the putative arrangement as a "Co-Presidency," it was scotched, however. They had to wake up poor George Bush pere to tell him he'd been awarded the "pitcher of warm spit"--as Cactus Jack Garner described it. George was pretty cranky about winning the booby prize, as I recall.

Dave of Maryland

It was good of you to remind us how the Senate was originally to be elected. It seems to be a superior method. One house elected by the People, the other by the States. It would make a huge difference now.

Peter Principle

The American people don't want a republic. They want a remote and benign dictatorship wrapped in the constitutional FORMS of a republic -- ideally, one that will interfere as little as possible with their personal pursuit of pleasure.

And so that is what they have. Except for the benign part.


I must admit..Cheney scares the hell out of me.

Got A Watch

I think this story is representative of US progress in building democracy in Iraq:

"U.S. Marines in Iraqi City See Signs of Progress in an Outhouse"

"une 27 (Bloomberg) -- After a tense drive in an armored convoy, on constant lookout for roadside bombs and other potential hazards, U.S. Marine Captain Jeffrey McCormack directed a giant forklift to set down the wooden outhouse.

``It may be an outhouse to you,'' said McCormack. ``It's progress for us.''

The convoy had escorted the outdoor toilet to a new police and U.S. Marine fortress in Jubayl, a residential district of Fallujah, a symbol of anti-American resistance in western Iraq. There, the Marines have embarked on an ambitious project to turn over control of the city to Iraqi security forces.

For the Marines, even this shack, adding the final touch to a complex of cement barriers and barbed wire, was a sign a long occupation might finally come to an end and the Iraqis would take over....

The U.S. plan is to divide Fallujah into 12 districts, all separated by concrete walls and barbed wire, and manned by hundreds of Iraqi police, soldiers and police auxiliaries. The districting will reduce insurgent and terrorist mobility and make it easier for local residents to watch out for troublemakers, Marine officials say.

Jubayl, the outhouse's destination, is one of two districts already walled off. About 40 Iraqi police, supplemented by 160 members of a ``neighborhood watch'' of armed helpers, patrol the district from the fortified base. The police receive $500 a month, and members of the ``watch'' $50, all paid for by the Interior Ministry.

``This is the final battle for Fallujah,'' said Colonel Richard Simcock, commander of the Marines' Regimental Combat Team 6, the 6,000-strong contingent in charge of the city. He predicts the entire districting project may be completed by January 2008. ``I believe I'll be able to walk with you downtown in safety,'' Simcock said in an interview at his headquarters outside the city."

I can't think of anything to add after reading that.

Richard Whitman

Montag, for the record Cactus Jack never used the words "a pitcher of warm spit". The correct quote was "a pitcher of warm piss". It was cleaned up by the press at the time. I can remember him correcting this several times in the 40's and 50's


We have arrived at a monarchical government because Repubs believe a majority of the people prefer that system and think that having an all-powerful sort-of-elected "president" is superior to the model actually set up by the constitution.

Cheney and Addington have simply taken our post-war "strong executive" system to its extreme, but logical, Repub conclusion. (With the VP as the actual "executive", but that's another issue) And now the facts are becoming known.

What will happen as a result?

A republic would not allow these revelations to stand unchallenged. It would not stand in dumb inaction as executive power was concentrated beyond any possible intent of the constitution.

In an American Republic, the House would impeach Cheney for admitted violations of the law, depredations to the constitution and unconstitutional aggrandizement of executive power. It would bring the charges to the GOP-constipated senate and demand that GOoPer senators choose: His Majesty Dick or the republic.

That it is not done or even imagined to be remotely possible demonstrates the actual status of the republic and the American constitutional system.

Ben, we couldn't keep it. But thanks for the warning, anyway.


What we have is a constitutional monarch rather than a president. Think of George W as Queen Elizabeth II, and Dick Cheney as his Tony Blair. George likes to preside over ceremonial events, like Mission Accomplished. (Does it not stick in your craw that while our soldiers were slogging through the desert to fight his war, George was practicing in the White House pool in case he had to bail out of his plane.) Everything Elizabeth does is parallelled by our "king." She opens Parliament (he: State of Union address); she knights deserving citizens (he: Freedom medals for Paul Bremer and George Tenet); she addresses the nation (He: New Orleans debacle); she signs laws (He: signs signing statements). With that as background, don't Cheney's actions make sense? Each is doing what each does best: Cheney govern stealthily, Bush preside ceremonially.

Altogether now: GOD SAVE KING GEORGE!


Soldiers of the Weimar Republic were required to take an oath to the Constitution, just as ours are. But when the German President Hindenburg died in 1934, Hitler seized power by combining the offices of Prime Minister and President--becoming Fuhrer. He then had the military take a new oath to himself.

It's telling that when Cheney gave a speech at West Point he mentioned their oath to defend the COUNTRY, not the Constitution. Al Franken has also written about Cheney's selective memory about Arlington National Cemetery. Cheney tends to rhapsodize movingly about seeing "the white crosses row on row," when they're actually headstones. Does Cheney even know the difference?


"In an American Republic, the House would impeach Cheney for admitted violations of the law, depredations to the constitution and unconstitutional aggrandizement of executive power. It would bring the charges to the GOP-constipated senate and demand that GOoPer senators choose: His Majesty Dick or the republic."

Surely in a functioning republic, Bush would have been impeached before the end of his second term if the laws of the land applied to him. Of course, he'd never have made President in that case.

This will never occur until there's campaign finance reform, and even that might not withstand well orchestrated campaigns by non-corporate interest groups like, oh, say, the religious right. At any one time it seems to me that the great unwashed "middle" could outvote any focussed interest group, but that's the problem. People need their attention focussed. Disciplined religious or other like-minded cohorts that often share anti-democratic or authoritarian ideologies are just so much better at it than all the incoherent groups of individuals AGAINST rather than FOR something. There are so few rich and so very many poor, yet rich trumps poor every time. There is one arena where the lowest common denominator with the greatest mass SEEMS to hold sway: popular culture. Yet complex things are seldom as they seem to be.

That is why, Peter Principle, there are such wars against millions who just want a little pleasurable I&I- intercourse and intoxication - but the "wrong" flavour of those timeless pursuits. Not to mention that the current configuration of the war on drugs focuses so much anti-democratic wealth and power that the ruling elites find felicitous to their continued rule in the present day, whereas in "simpler times" Prohibition proved not to be - at least not after some mighty "legitimate" fortunes were established, and knocked on Power's door louder than any two bit gangster.

frank durkee

While I am deeply concerned and have been for some time, I am not as discouraged as some are. We need to respond to Franklins challange and I think that we will. The first step is the '08 elections. We've pulled the US back from the brink at least once earlier in my life time and I think we will again.


One should remember that the "people" Jefferson had faith in, and the "people" that selected Senators and Presidents were among those with the right to vote, i.e the landed and by and large, the educated.

Today, there is no distinction between marketing and politics because the informed are vastly outnumbered by the uninformed. The same 70% who approved of the Iraq adventure in 2003 now disapprove of it, but they don't know why. They approved of it perhaps because they believed in the thin veil of lies used to promote it then, and they disapprove now because we do not appear to be "winning." It felt good then, it doesn't feel good now.

The truth, in my view, is that we have gone too far towards populism and the political elite know that the secret to the game is in the marketing of the product and not the quality of the product.

We are simply between marketing campaigns.


I find it funny that the extra-consitutional gyrations are being pushed by many of the same so-called conservatives who purport to believe in the theory of "originalism" in context of interpreting the US Constitution.

Funny and sad.



Not only trains, PL. Cheney also makes the planes crash on time. He is the master of logistics.

Paul Wolfowitz used the phrase "a Pearl Harbor-like event" three months before 9/11 during his commencement address to the graduating West Point class. Pearl Harbor and imminent surprise attacks, in fact, were the themes of his speech. He advised the incoming officers to get ready to be suprised. I'm sure his speech was found to be quite thought-provoking. You might say it was a real coup. (If you haven't heard it, I posted part of the address here a while back:)


If subpoeaned, his majesty will claim privilege. If impeached, he will issue a decree invalidating it on national security grounds. It will be called an Executive Order. He and his henchmen prepared this way for 30 painstaking years. They share the same blood on their hands, they've got the security apparatus, and they're not going to back off. Ever. REAL ID is coming in 2009. Are you ready for your bar code? Fortunately, it's all for our own good.

Who will save us now? Flood. There seems to be something bigger going on than a counter-coup.

There is a consensus-building, you can feel it gathering momentum. It's an intuitive, shared understanding that the systems of the earth itself protest the scars inflicted upon them by these glabrous hulks. Like the eschatons these loose monsters long for, their modes of rule cannot be sustained. They go too far. Logistics can conquer, but rulers must know how to pacify. They don't understand the first thing about doing that, and this is why they will fail. The net effort required for them to maintain rule is more expensive than the profits they can steal.

Granted, we're footing the bill for that, and I don't have a clear vision of the precise means of their failure. But maybe the "who" are simply the Many. In a lot of ways, this country is better than it has ever been, and in a transformative stage. The old United States is dying.

We will come like water. By planting a garden, by generating our own power, communicating with each other, and by improving our supply chains. By accepting that the world has changed, and so must our way of life. The '59 Corvette at the drive in, having a malt with Lynne at your side and then cruising Saturday night away, that Way of Life is already gone.

There are plenty who have thrown their hands up in despair. It is tempting to do so. But, I think undeniably, there is something like a god at work in human affairs, something eternal which does not favor tyrants. America is starting to understand the principle that the land and the King are one, and that our King right now is one sick bastard.



Two points Col:
1) You wrote a great piece a while ago: "The People are Soveriegn". You should post it once every month or so .. One of my favorites! Cheney would deny all of it, i'm sure.

2) Have you - or any other commenters - read "Secrecy and Privilege: The rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq" ? It was written by Robert Parry - a journo involved in breaking many of the stories of the Iran-Contra imbroligo
...fascinating stuff in that one !

W. Patrick Lang


There is a big difference. GWB actually has power. She does not. pl


True, Colonel. But he's chosen to bequeath it. He signs what is put in front of him.

Cold War Zoomie

I'm not as pessimistic as a lot of my brethren here.

Our country has always had this tug of war between a strong and weak presidency, even amongst our Founders. The pendulum has been swinging to the extreme the last few decades. It will reverse. Much, much too slowly for my tastes, but it will reverse. Americans are waking up and don't like what they see.

We *did* recover from a horrendous civil war, don't forget.

frank durkee

I am simply glad that this isssue is being raised. I wish it could be raised in other forums and become part of a wider conversation. This reality has been bothering me sinc before the '04 election. The first step in the process of altering the situation is an honest development of conciousness raising, followed by real research and aaction steps. Perhaps this blog will be one of the initiatory steps in that process. I am by most standards a liberal andby some on some isssues a radical, however, on the issues of boundaries, the rule of law and the constraint of power I am an 'old school conservative'. I have found this President rephresensible in his violations in these areas. Our Founder unnderstood that Liberty requires risk and that to sustain it some aspects of 'security ' must be set aide. When fear is marketed to provide votes then Liberty can only be at risk. In an old fashioned way this administration is an embarrassment both in their disdain for 'the people' and in their inability to allow facts and realities that harm their myths to be articulated and known. they represent not our worst but our own banality of mediocrity.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo

February 2021

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Blog powered by Typepad