Perhaps it was the image of Jeb Bush expounding on the future of the Republican Party or Condoleezza Rice channeling her inner Richard Nixon with the imperial logic that "by definition, if it was authorized by the President, it did not violate our obligations under the Convention Against Torture."-
But what is increasingly clear is that the modern Republican Party "" with its unwillingness to face up to its responsibility for many of today's calamities and the crimes of its leaders "" has become a clear and present danger to the founding principles of the United States, and to the nation's security.
The issue is not "rebranding"- "" as the mainstream news media endlessly says "" but accountability. The concern should be more about the Republican past than its future or, put differently, whether the GOP deserves a future considering what it has done in the recent past.
Yes, I know that former Secretary of State Rice later clarified her remarks to assure us that she wasn't echoing Nixon's famous claim that "when the President does it, that means it is not illegal."- But the truth is that Nixon's assertion of above-the-law presidential powers was at the core of George W. Bush's unbridled view of executive authority for eight years.
Rice wasn't just parroting Nixon, but the views of her deeply admired leader, Bush. According to the Bush administration's recently released secret legal memos, Bush was a power onto himself with the authority to ignore all laws and all meaningful constitutional rights of citizens.
For instance, in an Oct. 23, 2001, memo, Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo declared that Bush could order spying on and military attacks against U.S. domestic targets at his own discretion as Commander in Chief.
Yoo added, almost in passing, that the President also could abrogate the rights of free speech and a free press.
"The current campaign against terrorism may require even broader exercises of federal power domestically," Yoo said.
Another Yoo memo, dated June 27, 2002, essentially voided the Sixth Amendment's right of a trial by jury, the ancient protections of habeas corpus, and a federal law guaranteeing Americans public trials. In the memo, Yoo asserted that Bush had the power to declare American citizens "enemy combatants"- and detain them indefinitely.
So, while it may be true that Bush's lawyers put themselves through legal contortions in July and August of 2002 to explain why the near-drowning of waterboarding and other brutal tactics weren't torture, the theories were already in place for Bush to do whatever he wanted, regardless of traditional readings of federal law and the U.S. Constitution.
One must view Rice's comments last week at Stanford University about Bush's power "by definition"- to declare certain actions not "torture"- in the context of Bush's regal view of his "plenary"- "" or total "" powers as Commander in Chief.
Bush even believed that he could change reality simply through assertion. My favorite example was in July 2003 when Bush began justifying his invasion of Iraq by saying "we gave [Saddam Hussein] a chance to allow the [United Nations] inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power."-
Bush would repeat this lie over and over for the next five years, but the reality was that Hussein had let the U.N. inspectors into Iraq in fall 2002 to search wherever they wished for WMD and that Bush forced the inspectors out in March 2003 to make way for the invasion. Despite these well-known facts, the Washington press corps never challenged Bush on his lie.
In other words, Rice's "by definition"- remark wasn't made in a vacuum. Her Nixon-like phrasing reflected the Bush concept of the imperial presidency, which had evolved into Republican orthodoxy since the days of Nixon.