It is precisely during times of relative crisis that we should adhere most closely to the Constitution, not abandon it. War does not justify the suspension of torture laws any more than it justifies the suspension of murder laws, the suspension of due process, or the suspension of the Second amendment.
We are fighting undeclared wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and an open-ended war against terrorism worldwide. If the president claims extraordinary wartime powers, and we fight undeclared wars with no beginning and no end, when if ever will those extraordinary powers lapse? Since terrorism will never be eliminated completely, should all future presidents be able to act without regard to Congress or the Constitution simply by asserting “We’re at war”?
Conservatives should understand that the power given the president today will pass to the president’s successors, who may be only too eager to abuse that unbridled power domestically to destroy their political enemies. Remember the anger directed at President Clinton for acting “above the law” when it came to federal perjury charges? An imperial presidency threatens all of us who oppose unlimited state power over our lives.
A strong separation of powers is at the heart of our constitutional liberties. No branch of government should be able to act unilaterally, no matter how cumbersome the legislative process may be. The beauty of the Constitution is that it encourages some degree of gridlock in government, making it harder for any branch to act capriciously or secretly. When we give any president – one man – too much power, we build a foundation for future tyranny.
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