What Actual Tyranny Is


While some of us were trying to absorb the full facts of the Bush-Cheney torture program, which rested on a claim of total extra-constitutional power of the president to suspend habeas corpus, detain anyone in the US without charges, and torture them, Jonah Goldberg was writing a book called "Liberal Fascism." Even now, he is conducting interesting discussions on whether taxation in a representative democracy could be described as "tyranny." After a single stimulus package and three months of Obama, Fox News is predicting fascism. I have long been at a loss to explain this. Some kind of psychological denial mechanism? Rank projection? Displaced panic? Partisanship so deep it erodes any moral faculties or critical reasoning? To Zelikow again:

The underlying absurdity of the administration's position can be summarized this way. Once you get to a substantive compliance analysis for "cruel, inhuman, and degrading" you get the position that the substantive standard is the same as it is in analogous U.S. constitutional law. So the OLC must argue, in effect, that the methods and the conditions of confinement in the CIA program could constitutionally be inflicted on American citizens in a county jail.

In other words, Americans in any town of this country could constitutionally be hung from the ceiling naked, sleep deprived, water-boarded, and all the rest -- if the alleged national security justification was compelling. I did not believe our federal courts could reasonably be expected to agree with such a reading of the Constitution.

But remember John Yoo:

Cassel: If the president deems that he's got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person's child, there is no law that can stop him?

Yoo: No treaty

Cassel: Also no law by Congress -- that is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo...

Yoo: I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that..."

But a top tax rate in line with the Clinton era is tyranny.