Too many of our intellectually compromised leaders insist on treating ‘the people’ as if they were totally incapable of grasping the important issues of our time. While this has often been the case, there are signs that regular folk are beginning to catch on despite administration propaganda about everything from the immigration reform bill to embryonic stem-cell research to presidential signing statements to Vice President Cheney’s particularized version of the Constitution.
Things the public is expected to swallow are so preposterous there is a growing call for remediation and a return to the rule of law – – not just for jaywalkers, drunken drivers and pot smokers but for the framers of governmental policy. The American people have tired of being forced to deal with the muddle of social issues while the country struggles to maintain its status abroad and ignores serious domestic concerns.
With respect to immigration, people on all sides of the issue doubt the current bill can deal successfully with all aspects of a process so totally out of control. Most ordinary Americans just want some semblance of order in their lives and a legal system that treats everyone fairly; they are not reassured by leaders who tell them their fears are unfounded because they are on the front lines of day-to-day reality while too often politicians deal in abstractions.
Edward Lazear, Chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisors, appeared on Thursday’s Washington Journal with statistics indicating that immigration is a plus for the country. But, as one caller noted, his figures included all immigration rather than focusing on “illegal” immigrants. And his tortured explanation of how cheap unskilled labor on, say a construction project, actually raised wages for skilled workers seemed far-fetched, as did his analysis of how neighborhood schools are affected by the influx of recent immigrants. His suggestion that the next generation would reap the benefits of today’s untidy educational environment wasn’t all that encouraging. People don’t want their representatives to tell them things will be better in some future life; they want solutions for the problems of here and now.
But nothing quite compares with Antonin Scalia’s tortured logic regarding the methods used by Jack Bauer, the hero of TV’s “24”. Bauer regularly uses extreme measures to extract information from prisoners, a plot device that prompted a Canadian judge to remark, at a conference of North American and European judges: “Thankfully security agencies in all our countries do not subscribe to the mantra: What would Jack Bauer do?” ( Scalia, proof that the spirit of Ronald Reagan (who sometimes confused movie scenarios with real events) lives on, struck back saying ‘Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles and hundreds of thousands of people.’ And he added, ‘no jury would ever convict Bauer for breaking anti-torture laws because, after all, he saved L.A.’
It is more than a little unsettling that someone who uses fictional characters to illustrate his views sits on the highest court of the land and renders opinions that have profound consequences. Why he even helped ‘elect’ our current president in 2000 – – a dark time in our nation’s history from which we have yet to emerge. What imaginary, extra-constitutional forces did he consult when rendering that particular decision? Rather more disturbingly, however, many Republicans support candidates who think Justice Scalia is the epitome of what a Supreme Court Justice should be. The election of another president from the Grand Old Party could flood our courts with a whole new raft of mentally-challenged jurists.
Not to be outdone the current administration has managed to redraft the Constitution to its own liking. The vice president claimed executive privilege in the past to avoid divulging who attended his energy-policy meetings. Now he claims a dual legislative/executive function to prevent oversight of the way he handles classified material. For his part, the president, in the signing statements he attaches to laws passed by Congress is in effect writing legislation which is clearly not one of his constitutional powers.
Adding to a sense of derangement in the general conduct of the nation’s affairs, the president vetoes legislation passed by Congress that would fund embryonic stem-cell research, despite the fact that a broad-based majority favors such funding. Using the earliest form of potential life for research he says is in fact the ‘taking of a life’, and he loves to show off “snowflake” babies derived from the implantation of blastocysts left over from fertility clinics. With some 100,000 such cell collections remaining at various locations there would have to be a veritable blizzard of such babies to utilize all the possible ‘lives’. Many of us know someone for whom embryonic stem cell research might offer some hope of a cure – – a friend’s paraplegic son or another friend who suffers from Parkinson’s in my case. For us, and those who suffer, the president’s intransigence is a cruel, ignorant affront.
Dissatisfaction and anger at the disrespect by this White House for our laws and the Constitution have begun to surface. Members of the media are more persistent at press conferences with an embattled Tony Snow sidestepping most of the hottest issues, denying ever having said things he said and, hilariously at one point, insisting that “this is an administration that has been very careful about following the law”.
For anyone who believes that last assertion I recommend a bumper sticker that reads “I am incredibly gullible and I vote.”

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