Friday, June 30, 2006

To Dan Rather, Mary Mapes, and Mark Cuban: Answer the Treason Charge With a Murrow Moment
To Dan Rather, Mary Mapes, and Mark Cuban: Answer the Treason Charge With a Murrow Moment
Brent Budowsky

There comes a point in the life of a nation, and a profession, where it is time to make a stand. This is Bush's McCarthy moment; for Dan this could be his Murrow moment; where it airs is less important than what he says, the message will carry far and wide.

Charging treason is different. It is bad enough to demean a hero who came home from Vietnam in a wheelchair; bad enough for those who never wore the uniform to demean the service record of an authentic hero awarded the Bronze and Silver stars; bad enough to call a decorated Marine and lifetime brother of the troops a coward on the Floor of Congress; bad enough to demean hispanics who sing our anthem in Spanish, bad enough to treat gays as an enemy of Christ; bad enough to mock and slander the widows of 9-11.

It is bad enough for the President of the United States, the commander in chief of our military; the man who boasts of being a war president in a nation he believes is permanently at war, to host a National Political Convention, as George W. Bush did in 2004, handing out toys that make fun of the Purple Heart, a sickening spectacle of a partisan without conscience.

These things are bad; but accusations of treason are different. Let us understand exactly what is going on, with this charge of treason. It is more than whipping up a radical political base that long ago lost touch with the cardinal principles of Americanism.

Our President claims the inherent, unilateral and pre-emptive powers to abrogate the Bill of Rights and the Constitution claiming some authority as commander in chief; he claims the inherent, unilateral and pre-emptive power to violate Federal laws on his own decision. He claims the power to violate time honored international laws such as the Geneva Convention, which is supported almost unanimously by the military who's advice he falsely claims to always follow.

Remember: the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon included the charge that he failed to faithfully execute the laws of the land, which had put his hand on a bible, and swore to uphold.

First a question, then an observation;

Does President Bush believe that he has the unilateral, presumptive power to violate or ignore the Constitutional provisions giving Congress a role in war making powers? Does the President believe he has the unilateral, presumptive powers to violate any version of a Congressionally enacted and Presidentially signed war powers act or authorization? Does the President believe he has the unilateral and pre-emptive power to violate the Nuremberg Rules?

Does the President claim the sole personal power to wage any war, any time, in any way, against any foe, using any tactic? The other powers he claims inevitably lead to this. These questions must be asked clearly and directly by Congress and the nation, now.

I would observe this, when considering this charge of treason or espionage violations levelled against the New York Times or any other institution of media: the public's right to know, the purpose of the First Amendment, is to enable our democratic society to make decisions based on an informed public, but it is even more than that, and this critical and historic point must be fully understood.

Had the New York Times not published the two stories that led to this charge of treason and demand for criminal prosecution, it is not just the public that would not have been informed, it would have been the courts and the Congress who would not have been informed either.

I will repeat this for emphasis: what the President in fact wants is not merely the power to keep information from the public, but the power to keep information from the courts and the Congress. When the President in fact wants is to have secret, unilateral and pre-emptive power to determine for himself, without judicial review, without Congressional oversight, without regards to Constitutional, statutory or international law exactly what it means to faithfully execute the laws of the land.

What is at stake is this unprecedented grasp for unilateral power for one man, in one party, in one branch of government, alone, without knowledge or review by any other branch of government, to determine alone what it means for the leader of the free world to faithfully execute the laws. He presumes to put himself above Jefferson, Washington, Madison, Adams and more than two hundred years of American Presidents who never made claims so sweeping, secretive and contemptous of the first principles of our democracy.

The treason charge is different; shame on certain television personalities for treating this charge of treason as just another issue for distorted banners across the television screens.

This is about whether there is even minimal tolerance, good will and integrity among Americans of different points of view.

This is about whether the phrase "faithfully execute the laws of the land" is based on more than two hundred years of American history or the whims of one man, operating in secret, violating the cardinal rules of wartime Presidents to unite the country, to win the war, rather than divide the country, which hurts the war, to win an election, to maximize personal powers that conservative George Will among others has called monarchical.

The charge of treason is not merely to demean opponents or whip up an extremist political base; it is to prevent the Congress, the Courts and the country from even knowing what is happening on fundamental issues of war, peace and freedom. This is about one man seeking the inherent, pre-emptive power to not faithfully execute the laws, and not tell any branch of government of the American people that he is doing so.

Perhaps Mark Cuban, or some other man or woman of means, should simply buy two hours of television time, and give it to Dan Rather without fear or favor or strings attached, and let him do this his way, have his Murrow moment, and keep our constitution, now under hostile attack from within, a living document that no man, no party, no partisan has the inherent, pre-emptive power to treat with such contempt.