Making Us Stronger

Making Us Stronger….By striking a blow against President Bush?s claims of unchecked presidential authority, the U. S. Supreme Court has enhanced the safety of all Americans.

This is not, of course, what you will hear from the administration. In its view of the world, Americans face unprecedented threats from terrorists that can only be met by granting to the president the authority to respond in any way he determines to be in the national interest. Consultation, negotiation, power-sharing ? all of which are part and parcel of ordinary democratic politics ? become luxuries we can no longer afford. Only resolute action can stop an attack before it occurs.

In the real world, however, the Bush administration?s approach to terrorism is one more example of its failed approach to government. Its theory works only if those in charge make all the right decisions. But if they happen to make a wrong one, their approach multiplies many times over its negative ramifications. This is essentially what happened in Iraq. Able to ignore or quash dissenting points of view, the Bush administration deliberately removed constraints that might have saved it from fueling an insurgency that has tragically taken so many lives.

Separation of powers, judicial review, and bipartisanship do not deny the need for power. On the contrary, the great political theorists who shaped our constitutional system understood that power checked is power better exercised. The important thing is not just to make decisions but to make good ones. And the more deliberative such decisions are, the more likely they are to be good.

Hamdan v. Rumsfeld throws the question of how decisions in the war on terror are to be made back in the hands of Congress. The House will no doubt support anything the president wants. But if a few key Senators honor the traditions and philosophical ideas that have made America great, the United States will preserve its liberal democratic structure ? and be stronger at the same time.