Tuesday, April 8, 2008

What Would Thomas Jefferson Say? (Or for that matter Ben Franklin?)

Something about folks who trade liberty for security deserve neither, I suspect. At least, that’s what I thought when I read about the unlimited, unilateral power the GOP-led Congress gave Michael Chertoff in 2005 to build a border fence:
Last week, Mr. Chertoff issued waivers suspending more than 30 laws he said could interfere with “the expeditious construction of barriers” in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. The list included laws protecting the environment, endangered species, migratory birds, the bald eagle, antiquities, farms, deserts, forests, Native American graves and religious freedom.

The secretary of homeland security was granted the power in 2005 to void any federal law that might interfere with fence building on the border. For good measure, Congress forbade the courts to second-guess the secretary’s determinations. So long as Mr. Chertoff is willing to say it is necessary to void a given law, his word is final.

The delegation of power to Mr. Chertoff is unprecedented, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service. It is also, if papers filed in the Supreme Court last month are correct, unconstitutional.

I know conservatives think environmental laws are quaint little things that look nice but should be dispensed with as soon as they become inconvenient to the greater goal of making money. But what about other laws Chertoff can suspend?

“It is only happenchance that the secretary’s waiver in this case involved laws protecting the environment and historic resources,” the groups told Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle of Federal District Court in Washington. “He could equally have waived the requirements of the Fair Labor Relations Act to halt a strike, or the provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act in order to force workers to endure unsafe working conditions.”

This is the GOP Congress’ idea of “protecting” us? To voluntarily surrender its authority to someone else--in this case, Michael Chertoff? To abdicate its oversight responsibility and forbid the courts from hearing challenges? To, in effect, completely muzzle the voice of the people?

This is how the GOP Congress "protects" us?

Proof yet again that these people should not be allowed near the reins of power ever again. Because look what they did with it: they handed it over to Michael Chertoff: a man who was never even elected to any office.