by user Rmthunter
Warning: Long Post
This story from Mark Graber at Balkinization has been hitting the blogosphere the past couple of days.
I am posting the below with the permission of Professor Walter F. Murphy, emeritus of Princeton University. For those who do not know, Professor Murphy is easily the most distinguished scholar of public law in political science. His works on both constitutional theory and judicial behavior are classics in the field. Bluntly, legal scholarship that does not engage many themes in his book, briefly noted below, Constitutional Democracy, may be legal, but cannot be said to be scholarship. As interesting, for present purposes, readers of the book will discover that Murphy is hardly a conventional political or legal liberal. While he holds some opinions, most notably on welfare, similar to opinions held on the political left, he is a sharp critic of ROE V. WADE, and supported the Alito nomination. Apparently these credentials and others noted below are no longer sufficient to prevent one from becoming an enemy of the people.</p>
"On 1 March 07, I was scheduled to fly on American Airlines to Newark, NJ, to attend an academic conference at Princeton University, designed to focus on my latest scholarly book, Constitutional Democracy, published by Johns Hopkins University Press this past Thanksgiving."</p>
<p>"When I tried to use the curb-side check in at the Sunport, I was denied a boarding pass because I was on the Terrorist Watch list. I was instructed to go inside and talk to a clerk. At this point, I should note that I am not only the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence (emeritus) but also a retired Marine colonel. I fought in the Korean War as a young lieutenant, was wounded, and decorated for heroism. I remained a professional soldier for more than five years and then accepted a commission as a reserve office, serving for an additional 19 years."<?p>
<p>"I presented my credentials from the Marine Corps to a very polite clerk for American Airlines. One of the two people to whom I talked asked a question and offered a frightening comment: "Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying because of that." I explained that I had not so marched but had, in September, 2006, given a lecture at Princeton, televised and put on the Web, highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the Constitution. "That'll do it," the man said. "
We've all seen the stories of bizarre variations on the "no fly" lists -- Sen. Ted Kennedy being barred from boarding was one of the most prominent -- but we haven't really thought about it very much, probably because the stories we've seen have been presented as flukes, the result of carelessness and lack of initiative, and have ignored the core issue -- governments abuse power. That is why we have always been leery of giving the government a lot of power, why the bulk of the Constitution -- and the Bill of Rights that is part of it -- is about limits on the power of the federal government and how the power it does have is to be allocated. Suddenly we see the executive arrogating to itself powers to which it has no right in law or tradition, and we sit there and nod, too many of us, because we're told it will make us "safer." I'm reminded of nothing more than the upscale urbanites who "need" SUVs because they offer more protection on the road. What's going to protect us from them? (Especially the ones who can't unpeel themselves from their cell phones long enough to actually drive the damned things.)
Professor Murphy's outrage, as expressed in the last paragraph of the letter published at Balkinization, is perfectly appropriate and should be felt by all of us. When you factor in things such as Attorney-gate (and see this post at TPM on that one) and the politicization -- or do I mean Christianization? -- of the Department of Justice (which started long before Alberto Gonzalez and Monica Goodling -- remember Ashcroft's daily prayer meetings?), the Patriot Act and the Military Tribunals Act, signing statements and everything else this administration has done, we have a real mess on our hands.
In essence, the Bush administration and its allies have spent the last six years undermining the Constitution in any way they could. It's been an underhanded, sneaky, back-door process because their philosophy is repellent to most Americans -- accountability and transparency in government, the rule of law, checks and balances, freedom of speech (and all the other freedoms we take for granted), all are anathema to this administration and its enablers if they are applied outside a small circle of like-minded intimates. In the free marketplace of ideas, they'd go home broke at the end of the day.
It will take decades to undo the damage that the Bush administration and its Congress have done to this country and its government. The real problem is that no one is going to try very hard -- once you have things like this in place, when the opposition comes into control it discovers that it likes the power.
We have to keep yelling because we are the only ones who really want to fix it.
(Crossposted at Hunter at Random.)