The Polysigh post contains an extended excerpt from the famous interview of Richard Nixon conducted in 1977 by David Frost, and notes the echoes we are hearing today.
I will pull out just a few shorter excerpts.
Nixon, responding to Frost’s questions about domestic wiretaps:
Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal.
Nixon expresses his opinion that this ipso facto legality of presidential actions is nonetheless checked:
we have to have in mind that a president has to come up before the electorate. We also have to have in mind, that a president has to get appropriations from the Congress.
Ah, yes, the quaint old days of divided government, but what if the Congress isn’t acting as an independent check on such matters? What is the congressional majorities–assuming they are even informed–accept, at least implicitly, the president’s assertion that, in “national security” the president by definition acts legally. And, as for the reelection check, it is not much good in a second term. It is arguably of limited utility even at the end of a first term, given that it is a blunt instrument and, more importantly, that the very essence of limited government is that just because something is popular does not mean it is good government. What if the actions of an imperial president enjoy transient popularity, but in the meantime are undermining the liberties that a limited government was meant to secure? Then the president’s inherently legal actions in national security may fail to be checked by congress or the electorate. That still does not make them consistent with liberal democratic principles.
As for the ACLU, it would proudly accept that “enemy of the state” mantle that a shirt being advertised on some allegedly ‘conservative’ blogs gives it. Enemy of the state indeed, when the head of state is violating liberties that the constitution is supposed to protect.
Repeat after me: A government of laws, not men.
Related previous posts, starting with the first one after the revelations (which, I noted, were really not all that new) about the warrantless surveiilance: