Wednesday, July 30, 2008

On his radio show Glenn Greenwald interviews Daniel Ellsburg, the former RAND Corporation employee whose release of the infamous "Pentagon Papers" in 1971 exposed the complicity of the U.S. government in continuing the war in Vietnam. As a result, Ellsburg was charged with 12 felony counts and might have served up to 115 years in prison had not the Supreme Court ruled in his favor. The leaking of the Pentagon Papers to The New York Times so infuriated Nixon that he authorized the creation of a White House unit designed to stop leaks (the infamous "Plumbers"); the burgling of Democratic headquarters in the Watergate Hotel shortly thereafter was the next logical step of an administration obsessed with control.

The full transcript is a good read. Ellsburg and Greenwald reminds us that Americans have no reason to trust Obama and McCain to restore our fallen liberties in the wake of their respective votes and non-votes for the FISA compromise.

DE: I think that in that sense Cheney and Bush have been and are domestic enemies of our actual Constitution, as written. And I don’t say that rhetorically. I’m not saying that they’re traitors or disloyal in their feelings toward this country, or that they don’t want the best for this country. I think they want the best for this country, but what they think is best is something other than our Constitution of the last two hundred years. It is something like an elected dictatorship.

They have a right to believe that. But they don’t have a right to act on that as they have [after taking that oath]. The question here is, as you’re raised, how can we change that if we don’t hold them to account somehow? Well, I think we have to be very creative here in finding ways to repudiate that point of view and roll it back and restore our Constitution. Perhaps some way other than impeachment: which is the straightforward way, but which by every indication the Democrats are simply determined not to give us and are not going to do it now this year, unfortunately.

And Obama has indicated as of now… with his advisor Cass Sunstein, who I think you demolished when you interviewed him the other day--I would have been dizzied, listening to him if I was in your place, and as an advisor to Obama…there were just wild descriptions of what democracy requires--but with that kind of advice, we have to assume that Obama, who also wants to bring people together and to reach across the aisle and to look towards the future, none of those indicate he will be interested in pursuing these issues.
Yet Greenwald doesn't lose his cool. The present looks blurry to commentators, thus more vulnerable to hyperbole about its awfulness:
GG: I think it always seems that hard core indictments of one’s own time and one’s own political system are exaggerated because people only see the extremism of their time retrospectively. I think it strikes people as hyperbole because they just think we don’t have a king, we don’t have an emperor, just instinctively believe that. But if you just look at the very definition of what an empire is, of what a monarchy is, and the sort of defining attributes of what those systems of government are, certainly we’re a lot closer to that in terms of how we now function practice than we are to the constitutional republic that we began as.

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