Live set from Van Morrison, performing his single “Days Like This.”
The nation’s founders lived through the upheaval of a revolutionary war and watched the European continent erupt in petty battles over territories that had been long-coveted by a few monarchs across the continent for centuries. The Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the nation’s laws were designed as a stop-gap against tyranny. From Scott Horton in Harper’s:
As Benjamin Franklin left the Constitutional Convention, on September 18, 1787, a certain Mrs. Powel shouted out to him: “Well, doctor, what have we got?,” and Franklin responded: “A Republic, if you can keep it.” Like many of the Founding Fathers, he was intensely concerned that the democratic institutions they were crafting would deteriorate over time. In particular, they were concerned—and talked ceaselessly during the convention about the risk that, under pressures and exigencies of war, a tyrant would collapse their system into something closer to the monarchy that they had just defeated. Over the intervening 220 years, the republic has maintained itself, though not without close calls. And today, while we face what may be the gravest challenge in the nation’s history, our media will serve up the next chapter in the life of Paris Hilton.
Near the close of the Second World War, Learned Hand–a man who embodies everything that constitutes a good citizen, a great judge and a patriot–made a powerful speech at the Great Lawn in Central Park. “Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women,” he said, “when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it.” This observation may be obvious, but it is an obvious truth which at this point goes unstated. Our Constitution and values will only survive the present onslaught if we remain conscious of them and recall the great cost at which they were secured. The current events are far more momentous than some partisan political struggle. For the next generation of Americans, they will define what this country has become.
The Attorney General of the United States, who is currently serving the very important post of firewall for the Bush White House, will be testifying this morning before the Senate Judiciary Committee beginning at 9:30 am ET. (I’ll try and liveblog as much of it as I possibly and accurately can.) The members of the committee will be doing exactly what the Founding Fathers wanted them to do: asking questions about an overreach of power and a disrespect for the rule of law. I’m expecting a spate of “Not that I recall.” and “I don’t think that I knew anything about that.”, in the continuing saga of dodge and phony shows with members of the Bush Administration. (H/T to reader dude.)
The Founders had already dealt with one Mad King George, and they built in checks and balances which must be used to rein in this sort of excess and disregard for the law. They knew there would be days like this.