We joke about those in the south who still speak of the Civil War as "The Recent Unpleasantness" or "The War of Northern Aggression." But then, we are currently making our way through the officially designated Jefferson Davis month. The governor's proclamation inspired this letter to the editor in yesterday's paper:
Alabama Gov. Bob Riley's proclamation designating June as Jefferson Davis Month is a tribute to the president of the Confederate States of America, who stood for the patriotic principle of "free and independent states," which is written bold-faced three times in the Declaration of Independence.
Whereas Davis was the last real American president, as envisioned by the Founding Fathers, Abraham Lincoln became America's first dictator when he brutally violated the Constitution, throwing tens of thousands of Northern citizens into prison without trial and closing down hundreds of opposition newspapers.
Lincoln's invasion and violent overthrow of the states abolished local self-government by the citizens and established a centralist government in Washington, reducing the states back to the status of colonies.
The Southern states were more right in withdrawing from the United States in 1861 than the colonies were in seceding from England in 1776, because the states created the United States, but the colonies were created by England.
In like manner, the United States would have the right to secede from the United Nations today, because the United States helped create the United Nations.
Davis was right.
I'm afraid the letter writer is going to have trouble figuring out who to vote for come November.
There's probably not a month goes by where there isn't at least one letter to the editor showing that the sting of that defeat is still sharp among many down here.
Then there's this, in response to last week's Supreme Court decision on Guantanamo:
Who checks their ability to render an opinion? So they are superior to all other branches, and they get to review every other branch? That's the mindset we're operating under and they're operating under - that somehow they have the authority and responsibility to superintend everything that goes on in government and, if it offends their sensibilities, they're going to do something about it. But that's not the constitutional structure.
What is striking about this isn't the disagreement with the decision (a five/four decision will always be controversial), but the notion that the Court doesn't have the right to rule in this case, primarily because it's a matter of national security. The speaker is Jeff Sessions, US Senator from Alabama and a former federal prosecutor.
The Constitution has taken a beating over the last half dozen years. The doctrine of the unitary executive has been very effectively promoted, primarily by Dick Cheney. When Roberts and Alito were appointed to the Supreme Court it appeared that it would become the dominant political philosophy of the court, cementing the view that the President's decisions in matters of war and national security cannot be challenged.
Every president has sought to expand their power and privilege. Bush has taken it to rather remarkable extremes, but his desire to govern with as few restraints as possible isn't anything new. And while both Obama and McCain have expressed concern over the years about some of the actions the Bush White House has taken, I've no reason to think that either would significantly buck the trend. It just seems to go with the office.
That even as conservative a court as this one is still willing to challenge the imperial presidency is encouraging. But the closeness of the decision indicates how fragile the checks and balances remain.