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August 08, 2014

Sure Why Not: HHS Emails Sought by Congress To Determine Why Healthcare.gov Was Such a Catastrophe Are, Get This, Missing

Fundamentally transforming America.

I'm sure their idea is that Republicans are just going to "politicize" the emails, so it's fair to lie and say they've been lost, or to violate the federal records-keeping act and delete them shortly after their writing, to insure they never fall into enemy hands.

Here's the thing: Republicans are going to politicize the emails.

That's the point.

That's what happens in an actual democracy with competing parties vying for public affection.

This is the only thing that keeps either party within a mile of good behavior -- the understanding that if you deceive the public, or act with gross incompetence, that behavior is going to be politicized and used against you.

Consider the example of the various one-party cities in this nation.

Can there be any doubt that "politicization" of one's errors or actual violations is, while annoying for the party who has erred, the only thing that restrains a party from wholesale violations of the public trust?

Besides the obvious salutary public policy effects, there is of course a more tangible reason why records should be retained and, when subpeonaed by Congress, disclosed to that body:

Because it's the law.

And adherence to the Law is the only thing that keeps a society of feuding political parties from degenerating into a third-world system of coups and counter-coups.

If the party I oppose shows perfect contempt for following the law when it sees a political advantage in doing so, why should I not support the selfsame law-breaking when the party I support decides it might find some advantage in doing so?

The government's basis for rule over the citizens is based on two things:

1. Sheer naked coercive power.


2. Moral authority, and the notion that, while a citizen might not like the particular government serving at any particular time, that citizen values something more eternal than the temporary political circumstances of a four year period of time.

Namely, the idea that it is best for everyone to follow the law, because it's more important to support a stable government without turmoil and violence than to violate the law to win on any immediate, ephemeral political point.

Note that it is far better for any society that the government's power rests more on the second pillar than on the first. Because so long as that pillar, of moral authority, of general fairness, of a general sense that the longterm interests of America are better served by adherence to government than to rebellion against it, the government will rarely, if ever, have to resort to the ultimate pillar of authority, which is physical, violent coercion.

For someone who claims to be a "Constitutional Professor" -- actually a short-term guest lecturer -- this Obama character sure doesn't seem to have thought very hard about the importance of constitutional, law-abiding government.

This country has lived with only one Civil War in its 230 year history. That isn't just due to luck. It's due to governments usually showing a recognition that the continuation of the American Democracy was more important than any short-term political fight.

Nixon, for example, did (I'm told) briefly ask Alexander Haig if there was any possibility of avoiding impeachment by declaring martial law and simply calling the Army to his defense.

What did Haig tell him? Something like, "No, Mr. President."

Nixon's short-term interests might have been served by such a maneuver -- but certainly not the American democratic-republican tradition itself.

Why have those many fledgling democracies in Latin America -- many with constitutions closely patterned after the American one -- devolve into juntas within a few years?

Was it because they were less intelligent or more corrupt than Americans?

I don't believe that. Certainly no progressive in good standing can explain this by suggesting race or culture doomed the Latin American democracies to turn into tyrannies in short order.

So what did?

Well, probably because one party came into power and decided that their political goals were too important to be endangered by adhering to a trivial things like "transparency," "fairness," or even the letter of the law.

Having done so, did they really expect the citizens, or their political rivals, to obey the law themselves?

The law works when people see an inherent value of the law beyond their short-term interests.

When they see other people violating the law, they decide that only a Chump would obey the law, and they begin violating the law as well.

Is this what this Administration wants?

Is it even capable of the low level of thinking to see how deeply corrosive and dangerous that casual lawbreaking by the state can be?

As the Obama Administration continues to engage in casual, contemptuous law-breaking itself, do they ever stop to consider the harm they're doing to the oldest, longest-lived republican democracy in the world?

Do they even trouble themselves to wonder?

Or is everything justified by winning the day's Twitter war?

As the Philosopher of Party so nobly put it:

When we truly believe that some people are monsters, that they fundamentally are less human than we are, and that they deserve to have less than we do, we ourselves become the monsters...

Who are the monsters here? The Republicans, who lawfully demand the evidence in order to mount legal criticism against this Administration (and external criticism is absolutely vital to the system), or the Democrats and their bureaucratic Palace Guard who illegally refuse to do so?

Who are the ones merely threatening -- justifiably -- Obama's short-term political position, and who are the ones actually threatening the very foundations of our long-lived constitutional republic?

A Constitution is born of words, but it lives in deeds.

Or, as is usually the case, it dies.

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posted by Ace at 02:11 PM

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