Glenn Greenwald has attacked Romney, claiming the candidate wants a dictatorial presidency. I must admit, one attack from Greenwald raises my estimation of Romney more than 100 lickspittle encomiums from the Republican propagandist Hugh Hewitt ever could.
Romney answered questions about the limits of presidential power. Greenwald interprets Romney's answers to mean he wants to be a tyrant. But Greenwald's argumentation is more tortured than the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. See if you can follow what he is saying here:
In every area, Romney explicitly says that neither laws nor treaties can limit the President's conduct. Instead, displaying the fear-mongering cowardice that lies at the heart of Bush/Cheney Republican power, Romney described the root of his view of the world this way: "Our most basic civil liberty is the right to be kept alive."
Romney recited that cowardly platitude -- what has now become the shameful flagship of the Republican Party -- in response to being asked whether the President has the power to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants even in the face of a law that makes it a crime to do so. At its core, the defining principle of the Republican Party continues to be a fear-driven repudiation of the American ethos as most famously expressed by Patrick Henry, all in service of keeping the citizenry in fear so the President can rule without limits.
Here is my interpretation of this passage: Patrick Henry said "Give me liberty or give me death." Therefore we should be more willing to accept death by Islamic terrorists than to allow the President to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants. It is cowardly to allow ourselves to lose our liberties just because we might be killed by a foreign enemy waging war against us. The Republican Party uses fear to justify its power-lust.
Greenwald takes a slogan that was used to rouse a people to war and twists it to justify not fighting a war. Let the enemy kill us, because fighting back violates civil liberties!
These are just some of the powers which Romney -- and, among the respondents, Romney alone -- claimed the President possesses, either by explicitly claiming them or refusing to repudiate them when asked directly:
* to eavesdrop on Americans with no warrants, even if doing so is in violation of Congressional law (Question 1);
* to attack Iran without Congressional authorization, even in the absence of an imminent threat (Question 2);
* to disregard a congressional statute limiting the deployment of troops (Question 3);
* to issue a signing statement reserving a constitutional right to bypass laws enacted by Congress (Question 4);
* to disregard international human rights treaties that the US Senate has ratified where said treaties, in his view, "impinge upon the President's constitutional authority" (Question 8)
I'll let the legal experts set each specific point straight. Suffice it to say, I don't take the antiwar left's interpretation at face value. I believe their purpose in raising these legal issues is not to support civil liberties (as if they gave a damn about any liberties), but to stop America from fighting the war. I will concede that emergency war measures would be clearer if Congress declared war as is their responsibility. Furthermore, none of this would be an issue if the American government had fought the war seriously and destroyed all regimes that sponsor terrorism in 2001. The war could have been over in 2002 if we had actually fought it; instead we have settled for a state of "permanent war" that is disturbing, as the paleocons and libertarians argue. (But the reason is not warmongering or greed or Halliburton; it is altruism and appeasement, the fear of America asserting its national self-interest.)
At the heart of the liberals' and libertarians' elevation of legal side issues to the essence of foreign policy is their inability to take the war seriously. They don't see our war against militant Islam as anything near WWII or even Vietnam, but as more of a criminal justice matter. Let the FBI pursue these criminals who fly airplanes into buildings.
I don't support Romney, but he is absolutely right that we can't be free if we aren't alive. One of the few legitimate tasks of government is to defend its citizens from foreign aggression. And at the moment there is a totalitarian movement, Islamic fundamentalism or whatever the hell you want to call it, that strives to destroy America and the West and rule the world with Sharia law. It's out there. It's at war with us. Sooner or later it will strike again. This is not fear-mongering; these are the facts of reality.