February 2006
                        (page 1)

President Katrina
by Joe Sobran

     During the fuss about the Bush administration's 
warrantless wiretaps, liberal critics were on the verge 
of making a few good points, but they missed the biggest 
point of all: George W. Bush is the fruit of their own 

     David Ignatius of the WASHINGTON POST quite properly 
noted that Bush and Dick Cheney make the dubious claim 
that the president's constitutional wartime authority 
"trumps everything," even acts of Congress specifically 
forbidding, say, warrantless wiretaps. Sound familiar? 
Where have we heard this before?

     Yes, of course! Abraham Lincoln felt entitled to 
claim any powers he deemed necessary to perform his 
transcendent duty to "save the Union." True, the 
Constitution didn't spell these out, but as Harry V. 
Jaffa has written, Lincoln "discovered" a whole 
"reservoir" of wartime powers implicit in Article II. Why 
shouldn't Bush imitate the great example of Lincoln, one 
of liberalism's gods?

     And after all, liberalism adores "great" presidents, 
those who, like Lincoln and the Roosevelts, take a 
"creative" and "expansive" view of executive power, not 
necessarily going by the book. This dovetails nicely with 
the liberal view of the Constitution as a "living 
document" whose meanings evolve over time, adapting to 
new circumstances.

     This is a game any number can play. Today liberals 
are, by their lights, understandably upset with what Bush 
is doing, and I'm not happy about it myself. But Bush and 
his men are merely doing what liberals have always done, 
finding new implications -- penumbras and emanations and 
so forth -- in the Living Document. And they have so many 
precedents on their side. This is just the Republican 
version of what the Democrats have been doing since 
Woodrow Wilson. (And Republicans had been doing it long 
before that.)

     I can't get hysterical about the remote possibility 
that my own phone may be wiretapped. The real danger is 
more general than that; and even to call it a "danger" is 
wrong, because it's a certainty, and it's already 
happening. All limits on Federal power are going the way 
of the New Orleans levees.

     I must admit that the colossal and explosive growth 
of the Federal Government under Bush has surprised me. 
But I can't deny its logic, given the legacy of 
liberalism. What surprises me more painfully is that Bush 
has done all this with so little protest or resistance 
from conservatives who should know better.

     However it happened, it has happened. The Federal 
budget first reached a trillion dollars under Ronald 
Reagan; Bush has now proposed one of $2.77 trillion. And 
it's safe to assume even that figure understates the 
amount that will actually be spent.

     "The era of big government is over," Bill Clinton 
assured us, lying as usual. What we didn't suspect was 
that Clinton was just the calm before the real storm, to 
wit, the political Hurricane Katrina that is the Bush 
administration. Who ever dreamed that a president calling 
himself a conservative would end any illusion that 
government could be limited?


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