Tuesday, July 11, 2006

BookBlogging #12: How Would A Patriot Act?

Where, as here, no emergency prevents consultation with Congress, judicial insistence upon that consultation does not weaken our Nation’s ability to deal with danger. To the contrary, that insistence strengthens the Nation’s ability to determine—through democratic means—how best to do so. The Constitution places its faith in those democratic means. Our Court today simply does the same. (emphasis added)
- Justice Breyer, concurring in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (.pdf)

Regular readers must know that I'm a huge fan of Glenn Greenwald's work, so naturally I had to peruse his new book rather quickly after it's release. And given the good news of the Hamdan decision, now seems as good a time to post on it as any.

I was not disappointed, "HWAPA" is essential reading for anyone trying to make sense of the legal issues surrounding various recent stories of the Bush administration's will to power. Greenwald concisely and elegantly demolishes the Yoo/Addington doctrines invoked in support of everything from 'coercive interogation' to the NSA scandal.

Though it has been largely lost in the wake of Greenwald's rise to liberal-blogospheric prominence, he doesn't see the arguments over executive powers as a partisan issue, but rather a matter of fundamental principle. The title, (in addition to the word play at work) is demonstrative - in Greenwald's view, patriotism is almost synomous with a defense of such founding principles as limited, divided government, and individual civil liberties.

In a way, Greenwald's ascension has diminished his authority on the subject - before (understandably) becoming the NetLeft's go to guy on debunking Unitary Executiveisms, he presented very compelling, well-researched positions. And he still does, but he is wholly preaching to the choir: he is an anti-Bush blogger, for better or for worse. The fact that he has repeatedly and consistently presented his case for opposing the present administration is far less important than that he has adopted that position.

And far be it for me to criticise, but his blog covers a much wider swath then simply his areas of expertise. It is always dicey for one to attempt to transpose authority between venues (the best example is Cindy Sheehan, who had moral authority as a simple grieving mother, but far less so as a 'movement leader,') and though I tend to agree with Glenn much more often than not, his broader base serves to reduce his persuasive power to the unconvinced. "You would say that" is a fairly powerful rhetorical dismissal.

Despite these concerns, however, the book is crisply executed. Greenwald's writing is always superbly constructed, and given the greater time for reflection a book allows over a blog has only served to fine tune this quality. It is also concise - a perfect airplane read perhaps, to serve as a primer for one of the more important issues we face.

No comments: