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Political Animal

My Magic Pants

By Brian Morton | Posted 6/25/2008

I have a pair of magic anti-terrorism pants.

I bought them from a traveling salesman right after Sept. 11. He told me that as long as I own them, the United States will not be hit by any terrorist attacks. So far, he's been right--we haven't. A lot of people say that it's because of the policies implemented by the Bush administration, but really, I know for sure it's because of my pants.

You can't prove otherwise--I still have the pants, and we've had no planes crash into any buildings in New York or Northern Virginia. My pants are doing a great job, if you ask me.

Some people say--that's one of the president's favorite rhetorical constructions, and if it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me--some people say that it's the job of the president to guard the United States, and he says he's successful because so far al-Qaida hasn't been back. Well, for starters, I've read the Constitution, and I've read the president's oath of office, and nowhere in either one does it say that it's the president's job to protect America. The oath of office says it's the president's job to protect and defend the Constitution; when it comes to how well he's done that, I believe the jury might still be out.

First Amendment? Well, they were locking people up for protesting outside the president's rallies when he ran for re-election in 2004. Fourth Amendment? Well, there's that matter of warrantless wiretapping where the government and the phone companies were colluding on violating your privacy (the Democrats and, specifically, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, as it stands currently, are helping acquiesce on that one right now when it comes to the "compromise" on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act).

Fifth Amendment? Well, the Military Commissions Act gave a good shot at eliminating the right of habeus corpus for anyone the president decided was an "enemy combatant," no matter where the "battlefield" happens to be, much less that business about "due process of law." The Sixth Amendment deals with the right of a speedy trial and to confront witnesses against you; there's a bunch of people, including American Yasir Esam Hamdi, who never got a "speedy trial" much less a chance to confront his accusers, so that goes right out the window.

And of course, there's the matter of the Eighth Amendment, where the phrase "cruel and unusual punishments" almost perfectly describes waterboarding and the other "enhanced interrogation techniques" better than anything Jefferson, Madison, and Hamilton might have thought up in any fevered historical dream.

So for the job the president's supposed to be doing, he's not really doing all that well at it. And the job he claims to be doing is being handled just fine by my magic pants.

Sadly, I didn't pick up the salesman's magical Constitution-protecting pants that day, but then again, I didn't think I'd need them, because the president swore he'd protect it, and he said when he first ran for office that he was a uniter, not a divider, and that he didn't believe in nation-building.

Back in the 1990s, I didn't have a pair of magical anti-terrorism pants because Timothy McVeigh was caught, tried, and executed. Ramzi Yousef, who planned the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was caught, tried, and is serving life in prison without parole. Same for Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh: tried, convicted, sentenced to life in prison. The president didn't send them to Gitmo, waterboard them, hold them without trial for years or deny them lawyers, and the Constitution managed to survive. I don't even think the magic Constitution-protecting pants were even on the drawing board back then. But there they sat on the shelf of the salesman's cart back in late September of 2001, and I didn't buy them. I feel pretty bad about that now.

I figure they would have helped blow the smoke from the eyes of Democrats in Congress who caved to the administration's warrantless wiretapping plan, especially since it relies on the courts saying, "If the president told us it was okay, then it must have been okay." The way the new law is written up, even the lawsuits that have already been filed against the telecoms would have to be thrown out if judges are told that the Bush Justice Department--heretofore known as an open, accountable, self-regulating institution--approved the wiretaps. Never you mind that it's already been shown that those self-same patriotic telecoms were more than happy to shut them down if the bills weren't paid.

So unless Senate detractors like Chris Dodd and Russell Feingold can overcome those like Sen. Mikulski who have already signaled that they'll give in to the president, it looks like it will have been my mistake not to have bought those Constitution-protecting pants after all.

But so far, my magical anti-terrorism pants have been working like a charm. What's that you say? We were attacked since Sept. 11? What about the anthrax attacks?

These pants suck.

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