One thing that is becoming clear to me as I read through Mark's comments on the subject of the detention of Bilal Hussein is that he now intends to adopt a reductio ad Maher Arar debating tactic whenever he tries to make a point about detainee policy. Of course, one of Mark's problems with talking about this issue is that he has no real intellectual understanding of it. For him, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, rendition, rendition by or through liaison services (which is, near as I can tell, what happened with Arar) are all part of his white whale issue that he refers to as "torture." That may be true from a moral perspective (though I think that this itself should be subject to a case-by-case debate, abeit one that he is unwilling to have) but from a political standpoint there are a number of serious differences that need to be factored in. At this point however, I suspect his Bush Derangement Syndrome has reached the point (as indicated by his rhetoric) that it is a kind of end into itself for him, a means through which he demonstrates that his continued loyalty to the Magisterium in the face of all his contemporaries who (in his eyes) have sold their souls and loyalties to Leviathan.
Of course, in the world of the True Bush Believer, where Canadian civilians can be kidnapped, renditioned, tortured and their files squirreled away by the AG as "classified", there will certainly be no problem with just tossing a few wog photogs in prison for no particular reason and for as long as we bloody well feel like. After all, there is (refreshingly) no hint that he's been tortured. He's merely been jailed for no discernible reason because the King of the United States would have it so and nobody can stop him. That's what "fighting for freedom" means, doncha know.
First of all, there is a vast gulf between Maher Arar and Bilal Hussein, not the least of which being that the latter was captured on the battlefield in the company of insurgents in Ramadi. Moreover, according to the US military:
Hussein was arrested in Ramadi on April 12. The military has said he was in the company of two alleged insurgents, in an apartment where there were bomb-making materials, and that his detention was for "imperative reasons of security" under U.N. resolutions. His "strong ties" to insurgents go beyond the role of a journalist, the military has said.
So it appears that Mark's initial claim about Hussein's detention being for no reason (bolded above) are simply untrue. Now Mark can dispute the reason for his detention if he prefers to do so, but his claim that we are holding Hussein for no reason is simply factually untrue. But when this is pointed out to him, rather than retract his claim he responds with this:
It would be sort of nice if, after a year, they could get around to establishing that he's done something and, like, make a charge that sticks instead of just going through a kaleidoscope of trial balloons until they find something. But he is swarthy and Muslim so such details are unimportant. What matters is that he's probably guilty of something and it's safest to keep him locked up until terror everywhere has been eliminated.
Thereby resurrecting the claim that US troops in Ramadi (one of the centers of the Sunni insurgency, mind you) have nothing better to do than detain innocent Muslims. The charge of racism (repeated here, and in answer to the rhetorical question I would detain him if he were black, white, or any other skin color) on the part of the US military that he appears to be trying to insinuate here is nothing short of absurd on its face: everybody in Ramadi is going to be swarthy and Muslim.
Also, had Mark bothered to read the article he might have learned:
Whitman, in his response, said Hussein has been notified and given an opportunity to provide information for consideration in at least two of three military reviews of his detention.
So it appears that Hussein gets periodic reviews of his detention, all which the AP considers meaningless. That is their perogative (just as it is Mark's perogative to agree with them), but to complain that they are not occurring is to deny reality. One of the other little tidbits that Mark might want to consider is this:
AP executives went public with news about Hussein's detention Sept. 10 after months of behind-the-scenes negotiations. They said the news cooperative's review of Hussein's work did not find inappropriate contact with insurgents and that U.N. resolutions do not allow for indefinite detention.
So it seems that the AP is not contesting that Hussein was in contact with the insurgents, they just didn't feel that this contact was inappropriate. The US military, which busted Hussein in the company of two insurgents with bombmaking materials, feels differently. I am inclined to believe the military over a news organization, but Mark is free to disagree. After all, he is so much of a functional pacifist when it comes to Iranian support for insurgents killing US troops in Iraq that he doesn't appear to consider "contact" with the Iraqi insurgency that big a deal. A cheap shot and an unfair one, but no worse than what he hurled at Victor the other day.
Mark then declares:
There was a time when "Michelle Malkin thinks there's something fishy" was not sufficient legal grounds to imprison a man indefinitely without charges. I feel safer knowing that the State need no longer feel constrained by such petty things as "showing just cause" before it locks up whoever it feels like for as long as it feels like. If a royal, arbitrary executive without accountability is not what our fathers and brothers have died for, then what is?
Which, not surprisingly, is a complete distortion of what the commenter actually said:
I've been following his story via Michelle Malkin, for a few years and I am not sure I can give him the benifit of the doubt. As someone with both Northern Irish and Israeli connections, I have seen enough "photojournalists" creating news.
Thankfully, Mark's reaction was visceral enough that someone took note of it this time:
JanJan is arguing rationally and politely for what she views as a balanced assessment of the situation, and Mark and Dale react like she's defending Hitler. Any similarities to DU here? Please examine your reactions and check to see if you're not really enjoying that luscious, visceral, oh-so-righteous hate. I'll happily consider a rational, non-name-calling statement of your positions, but I see you doing your DU impression and I can't read any more. Not that you care, but I keep hoping you'll see that you've slid over to the dark side and try to come back.
Mark, not surprisingly, doesn't see the problem in his own behavior.
The rest of the exchange is interesting enough that it is worth excerpting in full: (removing some posts to improve the flow)
True Bush Believer
(refreshingly) no hint that he's been tortured.
King of the United States
Legal Torture regime
Bronze Age thugs
My idea of name calling is probably technically incorrect, and I apologize for confusing you. I mean the use of degrading terms for people you disagree with. Of course, there is really a need for a shorthand, or you'd be pretty long-winded when describing the situation.
However, in my opinion that's just nitpicking. Anything else?
Kathy | 04.14.07 - 3:02 pm | #
This is nothing new. Mark has repeatedly referred to Bill Clinton as the former Rapist-in-Chief.
Publius | Homepage | 04.14.07 - 3:16 pm | #
True Bush Believer: If you want to offer a defense for locking somebody up indefinitely and without charge, feel free.
(refreshingly) no hint that he's been tortured: If you would like to offer a defense of our very well-documented pattern of torture and prisoner abuse, feel free.
King of the United States. If you would like to offer a defense of an executive that can lock people away indefinitely and without accountability, feel free.
"so-called Catholics": I offered my mea culpa for that lapse here:
Perhaps you missed it. Or perhaps you simply don't care and would like to say anything to derail the conversation. I dunno. If you would like to explain how this term has been used to insult JanJan in this conversation, feel free.
Bushies: I am mystified at why this colloquialism is "name-calling". If you would like to explain how this term has been used to insult JanJan in this conversation, feel free.
Legal Torture regime: If you would like to offer an explanation of how a government where torture is, in fact, llegal upon the insistence of the Executive is not a Legal Torture regime, feel free. If you would like to explain how this term has been used to insult JanJan in this conversation, that would help too.
Bronze Age thugs
vice-torturer-in-chief: If you would like to explain how this term has been used to insult JanJan in this conversation, feel free.
One very specific point is at issue here, Kathy. Are we fighting a war so that the American Executive will have the right to lock anybody he likes for as long as he likes with no accountability? So far the defenses given have been: "The Pentagon (which isn't bringing charges) assures us it's okay" and "Michelle Malkin thinks there something fishy about the guy". I have this notion that the state should not go around imprisoning anyone it likes indefinitely without giving just cause. I share this weird attitude toward the power of Leviathan with the American Founders. I don't see what's unreasonable about that. It would be good if you could supply an argument here rather than a laundry list of non-sequiturs and irrelevancies.
Mark P. Shea | Homepage | 04.14.07 - 3:23 pm | #
Mark you're reacting angrily, and only to one point. My objection to you terming Cheney as "Vice-Torturer-in-Chief" is not to the fact that you see him as an aider and abetter of torture. "Bushies" is contemptuous. The titles you award to those you hate obscures their humanity. People who fail to accept your terms and arguments without further consideration are attacked scornfully. And you wouldn't do it so much if you didn't really like to do it.
Kathy | 04.14.07 - 3:51 pm | #
I'm not angry. And you only made one point. You said JanJan was making a rational argument and I was just name-calling. I made a rational response to this charge and asked you a question. I'm still awaiting your reply. I will reword it slightly here: Does the American Executive have the right to arrest anybody he likes for as long as he likes without having to show just cause? That is, in fact, what has been done to Hussein. Some reply besides "'Bushies' is contemptuous" would be appreciated.
And, by the way, "Bushies" is not contemptuous. Unless you think Ross Douthat hold the Bushies in contempt.
Mark P. Shea | Homepage | 04.14.07 - 4:28 pm | #
In my second comment I responded to the "name-calling." I said I was wrong about terming it "name-calling."
My subject is not, and never has been, whether or not the American Executive has the right to do anything at all. Why the question? Look at what I said and see if I was referring to the merits of the argument. I'm referring to your attitude. If someone so much as asks a question that may indicate they're not already solidly behind you, your response is that they are evil and in support of terror, and you use your love of language to tear them to pieces without mercy.
Kathy | 04.14.07 - 6:13 pm | #
Do you know why I'm a conservative? I used to go to meetings of a group called the New American Movement. They were radicals who thought the American Communist Party members were wimps. I could understand their point perfectly, being a twenty-something college student at the time. I wanted to save the world, and was very willing to consider their points. Two things happened. A young man came to a meeting. A picture perfect poster boy for the movement. A factory worker, young, strong, handsome, angry, ready to work and make a difference. He was smugly told to shut up, sit down, and listen to the people who knew. The second incident was when I asked a question. I asked it because I was interested in what they had to say, and I wanted detail to help me assess their point. I wasn't condescended to like the young man, I was shut up in exactly the same way you shut people up. How dare I question them. It never occurred to them that I supported their point, they just weren't going to tolerate being questioned.
And why did this lead me to being a conservative? Because I had just finished a course in Russian civilization, and what I saw in this group was precisely what was described in the groups that were involved in the 1917 revolution. The love and mercy for the common people, so well demonstrated by their total contempt for the common people's ability to decide for themselves what was good for them. They're why I still despise the left. Your attitude is perilously close to this.
I also read recently in another blog, a statement by an Indian man. He said that he would rather be a conservative because on racial issues, liberals will love you as an inferior, and conservatives will dislike you as an equal. He'd rather have that. I understand that.
Kathy | 04.14.07 - 6:25 pm | #
If someone so much as asks a question that may indicate they're not already solidly behind you, your response is that they are evil and in support of terror.
This is false. And this thread demonstrates it. I did not say JanJan was evil, nor did I say she "supported terror". Nor did I say that about you. Indeed, I didn't even liken anybody to DU. I did, however, make several substantive points about the dangers of an executive who can imprison anyone he likes indefinitely and without accountability, which is the subject of the thread. So far, in reply, you've given me a number of non sequitursa and irrelevancies, at least one outright falsehood and some autobiography in which you manage to suggest I'm like a communist. I'm glad to see you aren't calling names or anything, but I'd really like to stick with the point of the thread, which is the indefinite imprisonment of a human being without any just cause that we can see. I would think that, as a conservative, you would care about that.
I was shut up in exactly the same way you shut people up.
I have the distinct memory of asking to hear from you a good argument for jailing a man indefinitely without charge--at least twice. I'm not sure how that constitutes "shutting you up."
Mark P. Shea | Homepage | 04.14.07 - 6:41 pm | #
I think Kathy has nailed you. I don't think you have any credibility to say: "I'm not angry." Of course you're angry. If you were merely complaining about the powers of the American Executive, you wouldn't use words that obviously express pleasure in giving insult. I mean, read what you wrote earlier this week:
"Clearly Sheehan is not nearly the patriot that our Vice President is. All he's done is serve his country, not contribute to our economy by becoming a zillionaire, or stampede us into a stupid war, and lie to us about torture. When even the Marines hate America by casting doubt on the Administration, how can a great and good man like Dick Cheney counter the treachery?"
It is obvious you think Cheney is evil. You hate the man. And Kathy nailed you: "The titles you award to those you hate obscures their humanity. People who fail to accept your terms and arguments without further consideration are attacked scornfully. And you wouldn't do it so much if you didn't really like to do it."
You like to insult Cheney. If you don't see why that's a problem, then God help you. I don't like Hillary, Bill, Schumer, or any of the left-wing pro-abortionist politicians out there. But I don't go around writing posts saying sarcastically how "good and great" they are and how "patriotic" they are because they support abortion. This is really beneath you. If you have a point about the Executive Branch, you'd refer to the Executive Branch, and wouldn't make quips about the "torturer in chief" and the "brutal incompetents." Insults are not arguments. All they do is show how much you take pleasure in attacking someone.
You. Have. A. Problem.
Sydney Carton | 04.14.07 - 6:55 pm | #
It appears nobody is actually going to address the issue of man who has been in jail for a year without any charges being brought against him and who stands entirely at the mercies of Leviathan. A sudden outburst of exquisite empathy for the tender feelings of an immensely powerful multimillionaire who laughs off waterboarding as "dunking" and who will, in any event, never read my blog has much greater priority for the strangely selective sensitivities of my readers.
Mark P. Shea | Homepage | 04.14.07 - 7:06 pm | #
who will, in any event, never read my blog has much greater priority for the strangely selective sensitivities of my readers.
Yeah, and neither will anyone else who can do anything to spring Hussein from the trial-less pokey. However, you do read your blog, and so it is far more useful for your readers to tell you when they think you've crossed the line or indulged in hatred than it is for them to bemoan the treatment of Mr. Hussein.
Publius | Homepage | 04.14.07 - 7:32 pm | #
Mark, it's not Cheney I'm empathizing with. It's you. Don't you think it's a problem that several of your readers think you take vicious pleasure insulting the V.P.?
As for the subject of this post - what can be said? It's terrible that the guy wasn't given a hearing. He should get one. More people should pay attention to it. Maybe there's things we don't know, also. Perhaps the officers who found him have more to say about it than the King of the United States.
Sydney Carton | 04.14.07 - 7:46 pm | #
I can't help what readers think. Particularly if they seem to be more or less dead set on not looking squarely at the fact that, in addition to kidnapping and renditioning one completely innocent man to months of torture in Syria, they now have the case of another man who is being held indefinitely without charge--and the most important thing on their moral radar is that I was impolite to one of the most powerful men on the planet because he laughs off waterboarding done on his watch.
I am grateful that you acknowledge, sort of, that its sub-optimal for the the American State to act like Leviathan under Bush/Cheney. But it would sort of be nice if I detected something of the same passion there as you unleash at me when I criticize the second most powerful man on the planet for gross abuse of his power against the weak and innocent.
Yes. "Innocent". Maher Arar was innocent. The Administration has yet to acknowledge that. Instead, they add insult to injury by hiding his files, forbidding his family entry into the country, and pretending like the hidden files contain "classified" info that implicates him in Something Awful instead of implicating the Bushies in the brutal incompetence that has characterized their mishandling of the war and of basic American ideals of freedom and justice. When you get as passionate about that as you are about psychoanalyzing and denouncing me, Syd, I'll be happy to take your free advice more seriously.
Finally, as to Hussein: if there "something we don't know" the way this is handled in the America whose ideals are supposed be shedding the light of freedom and justice in the New Iraq is a little something called "bringing charges" using something called "evidence". In my country, they can't just put you in jail for time out of mind while the sheriff periodically assures the press "there's something you don't know". If the Administration knows something we don't then they should tell us what it is. If they don't have any evidence to back the charges, they should let the guy go. That's, you know, what we are supposed to be fighting for.
Mark P. Shea | Homepage | 04.14.07 - 7:58 pm | #
I can't do anything about Arar's situation, and since I'm in no position to know all the facts I don't have anything useful to add to that conversation. But one of the things that keeps me from learning more is the way I am repulsed from further reading by snidely nasty commenters. I respect your opinion on many things, but that issue alone is enough to make me very suspect of your opinions in matters relating to the war.
Kathy | 04.14.07 - 8:06 pm | #
I can't do anything about Arar's situation
Sure you can. You can educate yourself on what Leviathan did to him and try to educate others so that Leviathan can't do it again.
and since I'm in no position to know all the facts
What? You can't read?
But one of the things that keeps me from learning more is the way I am repulsed from further reading by snidely nasty commenters.
I'm sorry, but this plea of Ignorance Due to Hurt Feelings wears about as well with me as the pleas that inner city school kids can't be expected to learn how to read because of all the Nasty Racism in America. Exactly nothing is keeping you from learning whether or not Maher Arar was kidnapped, renditioned and tortured. Exactly nothing is keeping you from finding out that he is innocent (not that even guilt excuses kidnapping, rendition and torture). Exactly nothing is stopping you from asking "Why did the Canadian gov't apologize and cough up 10 million bucks?" I think you'r a grown up and not such a slave to your emotions that you let a few words of mine stop you from reading the abundant evidence out there of the wrong our gov't did Arar.
Mark P. Shea | Homepage | 04.14.07 - 8:26 pm | #
I don't understand the Harper's article. From the beginning, it says "The U.S. refuses to bring any charges."
But how can the US possibly bring any charges? This man is not a US citizen, nor was he in the US. So what part of US law could he have violated? And what US court could have jurisdiction where the government of Iraq is (supposed to be) sovereign?
I can understand asking the US to set him free. Or asking that he be turned over to the government of Iraq.
But if the US is to hold him, then in a sense it would actually be more improper to present formal charges than to continue to hold him without formal charges. Hussein is an Iraqi citizen in Iraq. The US cannot legitimately put him on trial.
James Nightshade | 04.14.07 - 8:40 pm | #
"Sure you can. You can educate yourself on what Leviathan did to him and try to educate others so that Leviathan can't do it again."
You really buy what you're selling, Mark? I yield the floor to no one in my distrust of American gov't, American media, American justice... You name it, I'm likely wary of it.
But do you really expect me to believe I can just educate myself and others about a handful of the most egregious deeds perpetrated by our government, and it will stop Leviathan?
I'm not advocating something else as the way to stop leviathan, make no mistake. I think all we can do is pray and fast and endure in the meantime.
Franklin Jennings | 04.14.07 - 8:44 pm | #
Sorry Mark, but you can't sidetrack the issue like that. I AM NOT TALKING ABOUT THE SUBSTANCE OF YOUR POINT, BUT ABOUT THE WAY IN WHICH YOU ARE MAKING YOUR POINTS. Sorry, it's all about you Mark. I can educate myself somewhere that I don't have to read the ugliness you're broadcasting, but that's totally beside the point. Are you unable to see my point, or just unable to concede it? Anger is a sin Mark.
Kathy | 04.14.07 - 9:16 pm | #
"When you get as passionate about that as you are about psychoanalyzing and denouncing me, Syd, I'll be happy to take your free advice more seriously."
I don't have any complaint with the substance of your criticism of the Administration, for the most part. I don't even mind the righteous anger at perceived injustices, and I think that's a good thing.
But that's NOT what you're doing. And if you want to publicly embrace your Dark Side, be my guest. Go ahead and flame away at the VP. In fact, do it more often. Embrace your anger. On a Catholic blog.
Sydney Carton | 04.14.07 - 10:31 pm | #
If you want me to concede that I sometimes get angry, then you should have said so. Of course I do. But from what you initially said it sounded like you were claiming I was being irrational in saying that we are wrong to hold a man indefinitely without charge. I could have sworn that you claimed that, in contrast to this Janjan was being rational in arguing that there might be a good reason for this limitless and unaccountable imprisonment. If memory serves you charged me with suggesting she was "defending Hitler".
Also you said that I called anybody who disagrees with me evil. And that I was, variously, like the DU and the Communists. Also, you gave me the distinct impression I was somehow shutting you (or somebody) up in this thread.
Now you tell me you just want me to admit I get angry? Okay. I admit that. But I don't think that's quite what you set out to say initially and that's why I've been arguing with you.
Guilty as charged. I get angry at times. I just don't happen to think that equates to the claim that "If someone so much as asks a question that may indicate they're not already solidly behind you, your response is that they are evil and in support of terror." Nor do I think I even remotely suggest JanJan was like somebody "defending Hitler". Nor do I think I act like a Communist or a member of DU. While we are on the subject of apologies, it might be nice if you offered one for these false claims.
All this may explain why I don't think it's "all about me" and why I think it would be good to stay on the actual subject of the thread--the imprisonment of a man indefinitely without charge--and not attempt to avoid that with an ever-shifting kaleidoscope of non sequiturs and false claims. Let's all agree that I get angry at times. Mea culpa. If you would be so kind as to offer the same for the claim that I suggested JanJan was like somebody defending Hitler as well as for the claim that I am like a Communist, and for the claim that "If someone so much as asks a question that may indicate they're not already solidly behind you, your response is that they are evil and in support of terror" we'll be all set and can continue the conversation about the atrocious treatment of Hussein.
Mark P. Shea | Homepage | 04.14.07 - 11:00 pm | #
If it were impossible to stop Leviathan then Maher Arar would still be rotting in a Syrian prison.
So the answer is, "Yes. I think we can and must stand up to Leviathan." That's where America came from. It is noble patriotism and deep love of country to resist the State when it does evil.
Mark P. Shea | Homepage | 04.14.07 - 11:14 pm | #
So upon reading this, it seems to me that Mark regards Maher Arar pretty much the same way he did the failure to find WMDs. It was that point that began his long shift towards Bush Derangement Syndrome and diving head-first into the worst fever swamps of the paleocon wing of the anti-war movement. After Maher Arar, he now regards the entire terrorist detention system as fundamentally illegitimate and as such is rapidly descending into the same area that many liberal intellectuals with legitimate concerns about racism unfortunately found themselves in when it came to the police cracking down on black radicals like the Black Panthers. Eventually, they came to the conclusion that while there might be some vague threat for black radicals, it was the actions of the police that were the real danger to the community. That was unfortunate at the municipal level in the United States and it would be even more so were anyone to attempt to take the same mentality internationally.
One thing that I would challenge a reader to ask Mark is if he still stands by his claim back in February that he doesn't hate Bush and just exercises the minimum of necessary criticism against the man.
Incidentally, for those who are interested in learning why Mark's view of the Founding Fathers is inspired more by twentieth century libertarianism than by what the individuals in question actually thought, I would recommend reading Federalist Papers:
THERE is an idea, which is not without its advocates, that a vigorous Executive is inconsistent with the genius of republican government. The enlightened well-wishers to this species of government must at least hope that the supposition is destitute of foundation; since they can never admit its truth, without at the same time admitting the condemnation of their own principles. Energy in the Executive is a leading character in the definition of good government. It is essential to the protection of the community against foreign attacks; it is not less essential to the steady administration of the laws; to the protection of property against those irregular and high-handed combinations which sometimes interrupt the ordinary course of justice; to the security of liberty against the enterprises and assaults of ambition, of faction, and of anarchy. Every man the least conversant in Roman story, knows how often that republic was obliged to take refuge in the absolute power of a single man, under the formidable title of Dictator, as well against the intrigues of ambitious individuals who aspired to the tyranny, and the seditions of whole classes of the community whose conduct threatened the existence of all government, as against the invasions of external enemies who menaced the conquest and destruction of Rome.
There can be no need, however, to multiply arguments or examples on this head. A feeble Executive implies a feeble execution of the government. A feeble execution is but another phrase for a bad execution; and a government ill executed, whatever it may be in theory, must be, in practice, a bad government.
Taking it for granted, therefore, that all men of sense will agree in the necessity of an energetic Executive, it will only remain to inquire, what are the ingredients which constitute this energy? How far can they be combined with those other ingredients which constitute safety in the republican sense? And how far does this combination characterize the plan which has been reported by the convention?
The ingredients which constitute energy in the Executive are, first, unity; secondly, duration; thirdly, an adequate provision for its support; fourthly, competent powers.
The ingredients which constitute safety in the repub lican sense are, first, a due dependence on the people, secondly, a due responsibility.
Those politicians and statesmen who have been the most celebrated for the soundness of their principles and for the justice of their views, have declared in favor of a single Executive and a numerous legislature. They have with great propriety, considered energy as the most necessary qualification of the former, and have regarded this as most applicable to power in a single hand, while they have, with equal propriety, considered the latter as best adapted to deliberation and wisdom, and best calculated to conciliate the confidence of the people and to secure their privileges and interests.
That unity is conducive to energy will not be disputed. Decision, activity, secrecy, and despatch will generally characterize the proceedings of one man in a much more eminent degree than the proceedings of any greater number; and in proportion as the number is increased, these qualities will be diminished.
... Wherever two or more persons are engaged in any common enterprise or pursuit, there is always danger of difference of opinion. If it be a public trust or office, in which they are clothed with equal dignity and authority, there is peculiar danger of personal emulation and even animosity. From either, and especially from all these causes, the most bitter dissensions are apt to spring. Whenever these happen, they lessen the respectability, weaken the authority, and distract the plans and operation of those whom they divide. If they should unfortunately assail the supreme executive magistracy of a country, consisting of a plurality of persons, they might impede or frustrate the most important measures of the government, in the most critical emergencies of the state. And what is still worse, they might split the community into the most violent and irreconcilable factions, adhering differently to the different individuals who composed the magistracy.
Men often oppose a thing, merely because they have had no agency in planning it, or because it may have been planned by those whom they dislike. But if they have been consulted, and have happened to disapprove, opposition then becomes, in their estimation, an indispensable duty of self-love. They seem to think themselves bound in honor, and by all the motives of personal infallibility, to defeat the success of what has been resolved upon contrary to their sentiments. Men of upright, benevolent tempers have too many opportunities of remarking, with horror, to what desperate lengths this disposition is sometimes carried, and how often the great interests of society are sacrificed to the vanity, to the conceit, and to the obstinacy of individuals, who have credit enough to make their passions and their caprices interesting to mankind. Perhaps the question now before the public may, in its consequences, afford melancholy proofs of the effects of this despicable frailty, or rather detestable vice, in the human character.
Upon the principles of a free government, inconveniences from the source just mentioned must necessarily be submitted to in the formation of the legislature; but it is unnecessary, and therefore unwise, to introduce them into the constitution of the Executive. It is here too that they may be most pernicious. In the legislature, promptitude of decision is oftener an evil than a benefit. The differences of opinion, and the jarrings of parties in that department of the government, though they may sometimes obstruct salutary plans, yet often promote deliberation and circumspection, and serve to check excesses in the majority. When a resolution too is once taken, the opposition must be at an end. That resolution is a law, and resistance to it punishable. But no favorable circumstances palliate or atone for the disadvantages of dissension in the executive department. Here, they are pure and unmixed. There is no point at which they cease to operate. They serve to embarrass and weaken the execution of the plan or measure to which they relate, from the first step to the final conclusion of it. They constantly counteract those qualities in the Executive which are the most necessary ingredients in its composition, vigor and expedition, and this without anycounterbalancing good. In the conduct of war, in which the energy of the Executive is the bulwark of the national security, every thing would be to be apprehended from its plurality.
It must be confessed that these observations apply with principal weight to the first case supposed that is, to a plurality of magistrates of equal dignity and authority a scheme, the advocates for which are not likely to form a numerous sect; but they apply, though not with equal, yet with considerable weight to the project of a council, whose concurrence is made constitutionally necessary to the operations of the ostensible Executive. An artful cabal in that council would be able to distract and to enervate the whole system of administration. If no such cabal should exist, the mere diversity of views and opinions would alone be sufficient to tincture the exercise of the executive authority with a spirit of habitual feebleness and dilatoriness.
But one of the weightiest objections to a plurality in the Executive, and which lies as much against the last as the first plan, is, that it tends to conceal faults and destroy responsibility. Responsibility is of two kinds to censure and to punishment. The first is the more important of the two, especially in an elective office. Man, in public trust, will much oftener act in such a manner as to render him unworthy of being any longer trusted, than in such a manner as to make him obnoxious to legal punishment. But the multiplication of the Executive adds to the difficulty of detection in either case. It often becomes impossible, amidst mutual accusations, to determine on whom the blame or the punishment of a pernicious measure, or series of pernicious measures, ought really to fall. It is shifted from one to another with so much dexterity, and under such plausible appearances, that the public opinion is left in suspense about the real author. The circumstances which may have led to any national miscarriage or misfortune are sometimes so complicated that, where there are a number of actors who may have had different degrees and kinds of agency, though we may clearly see upon the whole that there has been mismanagement, yet it may be impracticable to pronounce to whose account the evil which may have been incurred is truly chargeable. "I was overruled by my council. The council were so divided in their opinions that it was impossible to obtain any better resolution on the point.'' These and similar pretexts are constantly at hand, whether true or false. And who is there that will either take the trouble or incur the odium, of a strict scrunity into the secret springs of the transaction? Should there be found a citizen zealous enough to undertake the unpromising task, if there happen to be collusion between the parties concerned, how easy it is to clothe the circumstances with so much ambiguity, as to render it uncertain what was the precise conduct of any of those parties?
... It is evident from these considerations, that the plurality of the Executive tends to deprive the people of the two greatest securities they can have for the faithful exercise of any delegated power, first, the restraints of public opinion, which lose their efficacy, as well on account of the division of the censure attendant on bad measures among a number, as on account of the uncertainty on whom it ought to fall; and, secondly, the opportunity of discovering with facility and clearness the misconduct of the persons they trust, in order either to their removal from office or to their actual punishment in cases which admit of it.
In England, the king is a perpetual magistrate; and it is a maxim which has obtained for the sake of the pub lic peace, that he is unaccountable for his administration, and his person sacred. Nothing, therefore, can be wiser in that kingdom, than to annex to the king a constitutional council, who may be responsible to the nation for the advice they give. Without this, there would be no responsibility whatever in the executive department an idea inadmissible in a free government. But even there the king is not bound by the resolutions of his council, though they are answerable for the advice they give. He is the absolute master of his own conduct in the exercise of his office, and may observe or disregard the counsel given to him at his sole discretion.
But in a republic, where every magistrate ought to be personally responsible for his behavior in office the reason which in the British Constitution dictates the propriety of a council, not only ceases to apply, but turns against the institution. In the monarchy of Great Britain, it furnishes a substitute for the prohibited responsibility of the chief magistrate, which serves in some degree as a hostage to the national justice for his good behavior. In the American republic, it would serve to destroy, or would greatly diminish, the intended and necessary responsibility of the Chief Magistrate himself.
The idea of a council to the Executive, which has so generally obtained in the State constitutions, has been derived from that maxim of republican jealousy which considers power as safer in the hands of a number of men than of a single man. If the maxim should be admitted to be applicable to the case, I should contend that the advantage on that side would not counterbalance the numerous disadvantages on the opposite side. But I do not think the rule at all applicable to the executive power. I clearly concur in opinion, in this particular, with a writer whom the celebrated Junius pronounces to be "deep, solid, and ingenious,'' that "the executive power is more easily confined when it is ONE'';2 that it is far more safe there should be a single object for the jealousy and watchfulness of the people; and, in a word, that all multiplication of the Executive is rather dangerous than friendly to liberty.
A little consideration will satisfy us, that the species of security sought for in the multiplication of the Executive, is nattainable. Numbers must be so great as to render combination difficult, or they are rather a source of danger than of security. The united credit and influence of several individuals must be more formidable to liberty, than the credit and influence of either of them separately. When power, therefore, is placed in the hands of so small a number of men, as to admit of their interests and views being easily combined in a common enterprise, by an artful leader, it becomes more liable to abuse, and more dangerous when abused, than if it be lodged in the hands of one man; who, from the very circumstance of his being alone, will be more narrowly watched and more readily suspected, and who cannot unite so great a mass of influence as when he is associated with others. The Decemvirs of Rome, whose name denotes their number,3 were more to be dreaded in their usurpation than any ONE of them would have been. No person would think of proposing an Executive much more numerous than that body; from six to a dozen have been suggested for the number of the council. The extreme of these numbers, is not too great for an easy combination; and from such a combination America would have more to fear, than from the ambition of any single individual. A council to a magistrate, who is himself responsible for what he does, are generally nothing better than a clog upon his good intentions, are often the instruments and accomplices of his bad and are almost always a cloak to his faults.
Come to think of it, it might be a good idea for the Democrats in Congress to read that as well.