Bush and the "Great Liberator"

I can’t help myself on this one. Conservative blogs such as Power Line are watering down the spying on American citizens by invoking what has to be the worst example of all — President Abraham Lincoln — which has devolved into a comparison of the Peace Democrats of 1863 with the Peace Democrats of 2005.

The argument proceeds – Lincoln sqashed dissenters during the War Between the States, therefore Bush by all rights can squash dissent today. The wisdom of Lincoln:

As president and commander-in-chief, he suspended habeas corpus, used martial law, instituted military trials, and exercised power to the limits of his constitutional authority in a manner that illuminates the loose nature of those limits when confronted by necessity. Yet Lincoln preserved the rule of law and became the Great Liberator.

Naturally, since Lincoln did all of this, then Bush certainly should be able to spy on you, right?

Now comes the sqashing of dissenters, courtesy of the “Great Liberator”:

Perhaps best known is the case of former Ohio Congressman Clement Vallandingham. As commanding general of the Department of Ohio, Ambrose Burnside prohibited ‘the habit of declaring sympathies for the enemy.’ In the spring of 1863, Burnside had Vallandingham arrested for violating the order in a speech calling the war ‘wicked, cruel and unnecessary.’ As Farber recounts, ‘he called upon his audience to [use the ballot box to] hurl ‘King Lincoln’ from his throne.’ The echoes of Vallandingham in Senator Kennedy’s column this week are surely inadvertent. The Peace Democrats of 1863 nevertheless sound remarkably like today’s Peace Democrats.

In any event, the military commission found Vallandingham guilty of violating Burnside’s General Order No. 38 and ordered him confined until the war ended.

Yes yes, 1863 and 2005 are different times, but the insinuation isn’t terribly difficult to see, and it’s despicable.

Should the NSA be spying on Americans? No – it’s against the law. Should we condone the acts Lincoln took to secure the Union? No – it violated the very rule of law he sought to uphold, the consequences of which fuel the “bend but don’t get caught breaking the law” mentality we’ve inherited today…

Why on earth do we conservatives have to play apologist to those in power before the rule of law? Did it really take from 1994 to today to become so drunk with the idea of governance that we’ve forgotten what being a conservative is?

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