Gore on Checks and Balances
Al Gore made a pretty strong MLK Day speech accusing Bush of undermining the separation of powers outlined in the Constitution. Here are some highlights:
For more than two centuries, America's freedoms have been preserved in part by our founders' wise decision to separate the aggregate power of our government into three co-equal branches, each of which serves to check and balance the power of the other two.Gore gets it right here. Even those who believe national security trumps civil liberties should support Gore’s argument that a president who flaunts the legislative and judicial branches of government is dangerous to our democracy. This is the front on which Democrats should be attacking Bush’s weak justification of his domestic surveillance project.
The principal alternative to democracy throughout history has been the consolidation of virtually all state power in the hands of a single strongman or small group who together exercise that power without the informed consent of the governed.
There have of course been other periods of American history when the Executive Branch claimed new powers that were later seen as excessive and mistaken. Our second president, John Adams, passed the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts and sought to silence and imprison critics and political opponents.
When his successor, Thomas Jefferson, eliminated the abuses he said: "[The essential principles of our Government] form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation... [S]hould we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty and safety."