S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Following the rule of law -- Part I

The best guiding principle: We are a nation based on laws that had roots in older societies. The authors of the Constitution, however took the principles much farther that any nation before had attempted. The result is the best blueprint devised so far for us all to follow and stay out of trouble. Many of us have deep admiration for people in government with allegiance to the rule of law.
The subjects of today's post have demonstrated remarkable values that deserve notice, it seems to me. The first is Texas Representative, Sheila Jackson Lee who serves on the Foreign Affairs and Homeland Security Committees. The second is former Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith, who I will get to in a second post.
Jackson Lee is a fierce supporter of civil liberties who is also serving on the House Judiciary Committee, and its Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. She has eloquently spoken on the House floor about the importance of protecting liberty in the proposed legislation authorizing domestic surveillance. And recently published a terrific piece of writing titled, " Protecting America, protecting Americans," written by U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX). It opened with this:
Nearly two centuries ago, Alexis de Tocqueville observed that the reason democracies invariably prevail in any martial conflict is because democracy is the governmental form that best rewards and encourages those traits that are indispensable to martial success: initiative, innovation, resourcefulness and courage.

The United States would do well to heed de Tocqueville and recognize that the best way to win the war on terror is to remain true to our democratic traditions. If it retains its democratic character, no nation and no loose confederation of international villains will defeat the United States in the pursuit of its vital interests.
Regarding the current efforts to fix the Protect America Act, Jackson Lee continued:
It is therefore incumbent on the Congress to act expeditiously to amend the PAA so that it achieves the only legitimate goals of a terrorist surveillance program, which is to ensure that Americans are secure in their persons, papers and effects, but terrorists throughout the world are made insecure.

The best way to achieve these twin goals is to follow the rule of law. And the exclusive law to follow with respect to authorizing foreign surveillance gathering on U.S. soil is the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Representative Jackson Lee concluded with some good words to take to heart:
In short, it makes much more sense to enact legislation that protects Americans, rather than one that protects America, as the administration’s proposal claims to do. At bottom, America is its people connected to each other, and to past and future generations, as in Abraham Lincoln’s unforgettable phrase, by “the mystic chords of memory stretching from every heart and hearthstone.”

America, in other words, is Americans coming together in a community of shared values, ideals and principles. It is those shared values that hold us together. It is our commitment to those values that the terrorists wish to break because that is the only way they can win.

Thus, the way forward to victory in the war on terror is for this country to redouble its commitment to the values that every American will risk his or her life to defend. It is only by preserving our attachment to these cherished values that America will remain forever the home of the free, the land of the brave and the country we love.
To be continued in Part II

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