Monday, January 30, 2006

State of the Union: A preemptive response

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Tomorrow night, the president of the United States will address a divided government and a weary nation. In so doing, he'll attempt to make the case that the state of the union is sound, that his administration's policies have made it so, and that the continuation and extension of those policies is essential for the good of the country. The nominal opposition party, in the person of one of its more "moderate" orators, will respond with respectful disagreement.

Neither the president's speech nor the nominal opposition's response will truthfully address the true condition of the republic.

Neither the president nor the nominal opposition will offer bold solutions to the nation's vexing problems.

Neither the president nor the nominal opposition will own up to their respective responsibility for creating or perpetuating those problems.

I do not and cannot claim to speak for any party, group or assembly, although I have reason to believe that some may share my sentiments. The bulliness of my pulpit surely fails to measure up to that of the president's or his nominal opposition's; unlike William Lloyd Garrison, I cannot predict to any degree of certainty whether or not I shall be heard. I must, nonetheless, speak, and I choose to do so preemptively rather than in response.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are screwed.

Five years ago, the government of the United States was creeping, slowly and tentatively, toward a return to fiscal responsibility. Since then your Republican president and Congress -- with the connivance of many of their nominal opponents in the Democratic minority -- have engaged in the fiscal equivalent of a crack binge: They've piled up half again as much government debt in five years as the previous administration managed in eight. And, make no mistake about it, they expect you -- every man, woman and child in the United States -- to make good on their refusal to balance the checkbook.

Five years ago, the incoming president promised a "more humble foreign policy" in contrast to his predecessor's fixation on "nation-building." Since then, on the orders of the president and with the connivance of both Republicans and Democrats in Congress, the US has invaded, occupied, and conducted unsuccessful "nation-building" operations in two countries. These wars have so far cost more than 2,500 American lives, untold thousands of Afghan and Iraqi lives, and hundreds of billions of dollars. They have been conducted to the neglect of the administration's legitimate mandate to destroy al Qaeda and its associated terrorist organizations, and indeed have immeasurably benefited those organizations. They have failed to deliver Afghanistan from the depredations of its Taliban warlords, and they have succeeded in delivering Iraq into the hands of a proxy Iranian Shiite Islamist regime. Finally, they have -- according to the government's own investigations -- stretched the US Army to the breaking point, leaving America less secure.

Five years ago, the civil liberties of Americans rested on a shaky foundation -- the government's vanishing respect for the Bill of Rights. Since then, the Republican president and Congress -- with the connivance of many of their nominal opponents in the Democratic minority -- have done their utmost to wreck that foundation entirely. From secret "no-fly lists" to "free speech zones" to warrantless searches and wiretaps to detention without charge or trial to secret torture chambers abroad, this administration has eviscerated the Bill of Rights and erected a police state on American soil. The president now openly claims the "plenary powers" of a "unitary executive" -- the authority of a dictator, found nowhere in our Constitution and alien to the principles on which American freedom was built.

In five short years, the Republican president and Congress -- with the connivance of many of their nominal opponents in the Democratic Party -- have damn near sucked America dry: Of its money, of its honor, of its life.

Can we reclaim America?

It's tempting to say the task is too difficult -- that America's time has passed. There are those among us -- and I am one -- who would welcome a complete collapse of the rotted edifice of the state. Indeed, that is by far the lesser danger at this point: Even among those who are not anarchists like myself, anarchy must at some point become preferable to the boot this administration and Congress have placed on every American neck. And yes, it just may come to that.

For those who seek another chance for deliberative democracy, the choices are few and dismal.

The Republicans have nothing left to offer America. Those few advocates of liberty who remain in the GOP ranks do their country a disservice by allowing themselves to be used as window-dressing for an organization which has long since acquiesced in its leaders' will to unlimited power. The Republican Party is done, or America is.

It is just possible that an ember of hope in the bosom of the Democratic Party can be rekindled into a flame of freedom -- but it will be an uphill battle. In order for Democrats to become the obvious alternative, they're going to have to become an alternative: To return to their libertarian roots, become the party of Thomas Jefferson and Grover Cleveland once again, and stand unstintingly for liberty versus power. There are those in the Democratic leadership, as well as in the rank and file, who are attempting to lead their party in the right direction. I wish them luck and await the result.

Outside the major party "duopoly," the prospects are even more grim. The Libertarian Party may be America's last, best hope ... but only if it can rouse itself to exertions unlike any it has previously managed. For more than three decades, Libertarians have stood for all that is good and right about America, and have gone down to defeat after defeat. That they are still standing is not enough. They must prevail, or pass into history.

I write this in advance of the president's speech, knowing as well as you do that neither he nor his Democratic respondent will offer you anything of substance or integrity. All they have to offer are the last bitter spoonfuls of the poison that has nearly killed a once great nation. It's time to clench your teeth, refuse to swallow, and take your country back -- or kiss it goodbye.

Thank you, and good night.

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