How far have we gone from Constitutional government under President Bush? We are basically back in the days of a king.
Here’s the proof. A couple of days ago I was perusing the 1689 English Bill of Right — precursor of our own Bill of Rights — and note that the sum total of the gripes the English parliamentarians had against James II are precisely what we have in the United States today. Here’s the complete list of basic rights the English wanted protected against their king in their Bill of Right, a predecessor of our own Bill of Rights. You might notice some similar language between the two.
"…That the pretended power of suspending of laws, or the execution of laws, by regal authority, without consent of parliament, is illegal.
That the pretended power of dispensing with laws, or the executions of laws, by regal authority, as it hath been assumed and exercised of late, is illegal.
This protection sought by the British parliament has been usurped from Congress by U.S. presidents under presidential "signing statements" with Bush and executive orders/PDDs under Clinton.
That the commission for erecting the late court of commissioners for ecclesiastical causes, and all other commissions and courts of like nature are illegal and pernicious.
President Bush attempted to construct a military tribunal on his own authority, though that proposal was struck down by the Supreme Court’s Hamdan case. But Bush tried to create his own courts.
That levying money for or to the use of the crown, by pretence of prerogative, without grant of parliament, for longer time, or in other manner than the same is or shall be granted, is illegal.
President Clinton used taxpayer dollars to bailout Mexico without the authorization of Congress.
That it is the right of the subjects to petition the King, and all commitments and prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal.
Have you been to an airport lately? Try conducting a protest there.
That the raising or keeping a standing army within the kingdom in time of peace, unless it be with consent of parliament, is against law.
Bush/Clinton/Bush II have all claimed the right to send us into war without congressional consent, despite the clear language of the U.S. Constitution reserving that power to Congress.
That the subjects which are protestants, may have arms for their defence suitable to their conditions, and as allowed by law.
Clinton got Congress to agree to a semi-auto gun ban, and it is still enforced by the Bush administration.
That election of members of parliament ought to be free.
That the freedom of speech, and debates or proceedings in parliament, ought not to be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of parliament.
The McCain-Feingold campaign finance law restrains free speech and free campaigns.
That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive fines imposed; nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Bush’s torture policy goes far beyond "cruel and unusual," especially for those prisoners outsourced through the "extraordinary rendition" program.
That jurors ought to be duly impanelled and returned, and jurors which pass upon men in trials of high treason ought to be freeholders.
Jury trial? President Bush’s official position in court cases such as Rumsfeld v. Padilla is for jail without trial in perpetuity. Or, failing that, jail in perpetuity before and after a trial, regardless of the outcome of a trial.
That all grants and promises of fines and forfeitures of particular persons before conviction, are illegal and void.
Civil forfeiture for people found guilty by police of "driving with cash" has become commonplace.
And that for redress of all grievances, and for the amending, strengthening and preserving of the laws, parliaments ought to be held frequently.
Well … abolishing Congress is next, I suppose.
Thomas R. Eddlem [send him mail] is a native of the Boston area of Massachusetts and a graduate of Stonehill College. He is a radio talk show host in Southeastern Massachusetts and is a frequent contributor to The New American magazine.