Wednesday, May 02, 2007

What the hell is Harvey Mansfield talking about?

In a lengthy, but worthwhile essay, Glenn Greenwald looks at a recent Wall Street Journal op ed by Harvey Mansfield that supports the notion of a president that does not have to follow the law. There are many problems with what Mansfield has written, but let's look at something he wrote earlier in the same vein:
To counter enemies, a republic must have and use force adequate to a greater threat than comes from criminals ....

But enemies, being extra-legal, need to be faced with extra-legal force.
Here's the problem. The definition of enemies, how they are pursued, and their punishment, are specified by law. But Mansfield says the law shouldn't apply when it comes to the latter two. If you accept the law as something that defines "enemies" (aka law-breakers), then you should accept the law's other provisions, those that declare what processes are allowed to deal with them.

To argue with a straight face that people who violate the law are "extra-legal" and therefore outside the law's jurisdiction (and protection) is absurd. The law recognizes that people will violate the law at times, but still considers actions to catch and punish them to be within the law's purview. And that's setting aside the whole notion that the law deals with suspects, not enemies. The law is used to determine who really is an enemy, with rules for evidence and trial proceedings. But Mansfield doesn't care for any of that. Some Leader gets to say who an enemy is (absent any evidence!) and Mansfield says "anything goes".

It's time to come out and say it. The Weekly Standard and the Wall Street Journal editorial page, by running Mansfield's essay in a non-critical manner, are fascists. (Or, as some have suggested, the milder term "royalists".)

UPDATE: Remember, Mansfield is writing this during a time of peace, where there is no existential threat to the nation. There are no Nazi subs off the Atlantic coast. No troops marching on Washington. It's hard to conclude anything other than that Harvey Mansfield is deranged.


Post a Comment