In response to Ron Paul’s phenomenal fundraising successes and his widespread, national popularity, the neocon establishment has commenced a smear campaign. One such smear artist is John C. Fortier, a "research fellow" at what Lew Rockwell has called the Supreme Soviet of Neoconservatism — the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).
Writing on the AEI website, Fortier complained that Congressman Paul "sometimes displays a sinister conspiratorial aspect, implying that those who disagree with him are the vanguard of dictatorial government." The Congressman and his supporters, says Fortier, think they "are there to stop such a dictatorship."
Fortier is especially incensed at the fact that Congressman Paul asked him many hard questions, and opposed some of his recommendations, when he was executive director of something called the "Continuity in Government Commission." In particular, the congressman was suspicious of the neocon commissioner’s recommendation that the president appoint members of Congress in the aftermath of some kind of "emergency" that incapacitates Congress. (Leaving the definition of "emergency" up to Washington, D.C. politicians is always dangerous to liberty, as anyone with any concern about constitutional government would know.)
Well, the work of Fortier’s Continuity in Government Commission is now finished, and the results of its efforts are seen in something called the National Security and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 20/51, also known as the "National Continuity Policy." This is another one of those presidential "directives" that was sneaked in under the media’s radar screen that does indeed grant the president dictatorial powers. Judge Andrew Napolitano describes the meaning of this "directive" in his brilliant new book, A Nation of Sheep (pp. 74—76).
The White House published the directive on its website after it was already signed by the president. Most Americans who have actually read and studied the directive, writes Napolitano, "are terrified by its implications." They are terrified because presidential "directives" as such can be issued without any oversight by any other branch of government. The "National Continuity Policy" directive "concentrates power into the office of the president to coordinate any and all government and business activities" in the event of a "catastrophic emergency," writes the judge.
The problem this creates for the American public is that "the pliable language in the directive creates the ability for a vast scope of executive authority without the checks and balances of the other branches of government," writes Napolitano. It creates dictatorial powers, in other words.
"Catastrophic emergency" is defined so broadly that it could include an economic downturn, an environmental catastrophe, large-scale protests against the Iraq war, a power blackout, a bridge collapse such as the one on the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis last summer, a tsunami, a volcanic eruption such as Mount Saint Helen’s, and, says Napolitano, possibly even if "a plague of fire ants invades Crawford, Texas."
The president gets to decide what constitutes a "catastrophe" that allows him to enforce his own directive and assume dictatorial powers over the government and the economy. If the president does declare such an emergency, writes Napolitano, "he can take over all government functions including the Congress and the federal courts and direct all private sector activities." Moreover, "the emergency exists until the president decides it is over." The question is not, why was Ron Paul suspicious of the government "commission" that dreamed up this dictatorial nightmare, but why wasn’t every other member of Congress?
It gets even worse. The Bush administration, thanks to the work of John C. Fortier’s Continuity in Government Commission, was emboldened to simply ignore the federal National Emergencies Act, passed in 1976, that was intended to prevent a perpetual state of national emergency "and formalize Congressional checks and balances on presidential emergency powers." They just thumbed their collective noses, figuratively speaking, at the Congress and the American public, and broke the law — again. But then, the president’s lawyers have argued for years that anything he does is legal and constitutional. The Constitution doesn’t say this, mind you; Republican Party hacks with law degrees do.
All of this is why, of all the former Trotskyites and other assorted neocons who hang their hats at AEI, it was John C. Fortier who took the lead to smear Ron Paul on the Institute’s website. It was Ron Paul, almost alone among members of Congress, who understood the potential devastating dangers to American liberty that might come from a commission such as the one that was directed by Fortier.
The "National Continuity Policy" was put in place in secret, without the knowledge of even very many members of Congress. Fortier must be in a state of panic. He understands that, because of his exponentially-growing popularity, Ron Paul has the ability to expose this atrocious attack on American liberty to the entire nation, which may come to understand that AEI — the Supreme Soviet of Neoconservatism — is best thought of as the American Dictatorship Institute.
Thomas J. DiLorenzo [send him mail] professor of economics at Loyola College in Maryland and the author of The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, (Three Rivers Press/Random House). His latest book is Lincoln Unmasked: What You’re Not Supposed To Know about Dishonest Abe (Crown Forum/Random House).