WASHINGTON – Congress sent President Bush a bill Friday that endorses his plan to interrogate and prosecute terror suspects, legislation Republicans hope will win them political points on the campaign trail.
Many Democrats opposed the legislation because they said it eliminated rights of defendants considered fundanamental to American values, such as a person’s ability to protest court detention and the use of coerced tesimony as evidence.
The bill on interrogations and trials also would eliminate some rights common in military and civilian courts. For example, the commission would be allowed to consider hearsay evidence so long as a judge determined it was reliable. Hearsay is barred from civilian courts.
The legislation also says the president can “interpret the meaning and application” of international standards for prisoner treatment, a provision intended to allow him to authorize aggressive interrogation methods that might otherwise be seen as illegal by international courts.
Sadly, the United States now has a President that firmly believes in the Divine Right of Kings. He is neither divine, nor right, nor a king. Gerald Ford may have referred to Watergate as “our long national nightmare,” but that nightmare pales in comparison to the nightmare of the past five years.
Will the nightmare end? Undoing the damage–to the fabric of American society, to America’s standing in the world–could take the better part of a generation. But I will admit that, in my darkest moments, the sneaking suspicion that a President who feels no compunction at ignoring the Constitution and the laws and traditions of the nation would not go gently into the night.