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9/23/2006 01:25:00 AM | Timothy

Who cares about the Dartmouth Constitution when no one is protecting the U.S. constitution?

So a lot of people are concerned that Dartmouth might get a bit more "undemocratic" by having more appointed officers, or whatever else this new Alumni constitution would do.

Who cares about that when the White House says "No", the Supreme Court is not supposed to decide whether laws are unconstitutional:
[Question]: But isn’t it the Supreme Court that’s supposed to decide whether laws are unconstitutional or not?

[Whitehouse Spokesperson Tony Snow]: No, as a matter of fact the president has an obligation to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. That is an obligation that presidents have enacted through signing statements going back to Jefferson. So, while the Supreme Court can be an arbiter of the Constitution, the fact is the President is the one, the only person who, by the Constitution, is given the responsibility to preserve, protect, and defend that document, so it is perfectly consistent with presidential authority under the Constitution itself.


Are we supposed to see how evil the Dartmouth administration is because they are "tampering" with an election? With a word like "tampering", I expect to be told that ballots boxes are being stuffed, or something. But no, we hear about the administration taking sides (and I'm sure there's other complaints elsewhere). Tough language.

I am outraged the administration calls alternative interrogation techniques and what all of the world, until recently, would call "torture". How many conservatives think that it is an outrage that we won't use the tough word "torture" when calling a spade a spade? I don't know many conservatives who are expressing concern about the torture being done in our name, much less seeming to care as much as they do about the Dartmouth constitution. Here's self-identified conservative Andrew Sullivan:
So we "formally" leave Geneva alone, but grant the executive branch complete discretion in determining what "cruel" means; and the language of the bill certainly can be construed to allow waterboarding, hypothermia, sleep deprivation, stress positions, and long-time standing. It even allows for a person to be beaten, cut, or near-drowned.

It's important to note that McCain does not believe that this is the case. He believes that the definition of "cruel" here would bar such "alternative methods". But we know from bitter experience that in any ambiguity, this administration has opted for the more draconian interpretation. So therefore all of these techniques, described in detail in Solzheniytsen's "Gulag Archipelago," potentially remain available to this president under this proposal. Barring further clarifications confirming McCain's belief that this bill bars these "alternative methods", I see no legal barrier in this bill to Bush's continuing to authorize them in the future. Worse, the proposal will have declared these practices not to be "cruel". Worse still, its Orwellian abuse of language contains echoes of totalitarian discourse.


I love how some people can get all bent out of shape about the college's "star chambers" and "kangeroo courts" but can't seem to grasp what the administration is claiming on a national level. At one point, the President claimed the power to unilaterally detain people, including U.S. citizens like Jose Padilla, without court review for an indefinite period of time. A lot of Dartmouth "libertarians" didn't seem to know or care about this. Now, we have the the capitalation of the "reasonable" Republican Senators on the issue of torture and war crimes. I thought that Senator Graham was concerned that we should not put people to death without letting them see any evidence against them. I guess not. (And have we outlawed the use of evidence obtained by torture?) And what in the world is the matter with the Democrats? Shame on them. Shame. And shame on all us, for that is what has and will further befall our country.

Look, I know that people are concerned about both issues, and perhaps we work towards what we can affect, things near us, and perhaps this makes sense in the Dartmouth constitution context. I'm a professor, so I care articular about upholding academic standards. I applaud articles like this (assuming they are factually correct). I care about torture here in the U.S. as well not because it is the worst thing going on the world. I care because "we" collectively are doing this. It's a horrific thing to have a rogue President who claims the law does not matter. It's yet another level lower to codify in law his claims, and put our collective stamp of approval on it. It appears we're about to do that, and I believe this is only the beginning of the slide of our country.

Yet if people are outraged at the Dartmouth constitution because of the Administration's violations of due process and threat to change democracy, where the outrage at what the Bush Administration is doing to the U.S. constitution and our traditions?
However much I may pick on them, my larger point has not much to do with the Review. Opposition to what the college has been doing with the constitution has been bipartisan, as they say. I have my beefs with the Review, but scoring points pales to my current concerns (though I'm thinking of them and their recent alums mainly, as I don't know what goes on, for example, with the three petition trustees themselves). I'd love to be emailed their strong editorial condemnations of torture and be shown that they care. Many of these Reviewers are actually in influential positions in the networks of power (well, at least compared to us liberals, which is not saying much). But I have no sense (quite the opposite) that alumni of the Dartmouth Review are yelling from the rooftops about the powers Bush is claiming and arrogating for himself. If anything, too many conservatives say liberals and civil libertarians are overrought. Well, this overwroughtness comes from outrage, outrage that is not entirely baseless. I'm outraged about this because it is so close to me. It's close to all of us who are citizens (and others as well, perhaps). So if you can justify getting outraged about a local, minor violation of democracy, make clear your concern about the violations of the constitution taking place in our nation. If you can justify local action because you identify with your college, start thinking about the fate and moral identity of the nation with whom acts in your name.



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