Jonah harrumphs at Frank Rich's column yesterday, with a nice bit of anti-boomer rage but a somewhat desperate swipe that Rich's worry about a "quiet coup" is "paranoid nonsense" and "shameful." Really? Takeover Jonah should take a look at Charlie Savage's extraordinarily good "Take-Over: The Return Of The Imperial Presidency." At least one very smart conservative has praised it. The facts are as follows: this president believes that he is not ultimately subject to the rule of law in waging war since 9/11; he believes he can ignore any laws passed in this respect - even those passed with veto-proof majorities if necessary - by signing statements, whose frequency has soared under the Cheney-Bush presidency; he believes that the parameters of the include the territory of the United States and every citizen of the United States; he believes he has the right to seize any individual in this country or the world without charging them and hold them indefinitely or subject them to kangaroo military courts where basic due process protections are absent; he has clearly authorized the torture of many individuals using this power, while redefining the word torture against the plain meaning of the term in law and in English. He has done all this with barely any real push-back from the Congress and only minimal interference from the Supreme Court which he has bolstered with Justices who uphold great deference to the executive branch in wartime. And all these emergency powers - sanctioned by the notion of an emergency and defended with references to previous emergencies (such as the Civil War and the Second World War) - are, unlike in the past, indefinitely awarded to the executive branch, because this war is against an amorphous entity that by definition cannot surrender. And so we have transformed emergency powers - controversial even under those circumstances - into the permanent balance of power in American democracy. We have gone immediately to the most extreme position - a president empowered to do anything to defend the nation - and made it permanent. Just as we have taken the one-in-a-million moral (not legal) sanction to torture, and made it a normal, legal avenue of executive branch interrogation, subject to no checks except those imposed by the torturers themselves.

I do not believe these facts are in any significant dispute, however blinkered NRO "conservatives" want to remain. The current Republican candidates (apart from Ron Paul and, to some extent, McCain) all support this new protectorate in place of a presidency.

If this is not a quiet coup, what would be? And why should conservatives, of all people, support and enable this assault on the constitution and individual liberty, in the name of a war against an abstract enemy that will never be defeated? Has anybody ever read "Nineteen-Eighty-Four"?

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