Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
September 21, 2006
POLITICS: Perspective

Libertarian Megan McArdle isn't too happy with a lot of the Bush Administration's moves on detainees and surveillance, but at least she has perspective:

[I]f you think that the things the Bush administration is doing could, in the future, help less benign governments to seize horrifying power -- well, I'll agree with you, but only if you also acknowlege that the same could be said for every president since Hoover, and that in fact FDR takes the gold prize for Doing Things That Could Be Used to Install a Dictator. Indeed, FDR is probably the closest thing this country ever came to having a dictator, and we can thank a lot of fast tap-dancing by the Supreme Court and the Senate for not getting us closer still. If FDR doesn't terrify you, then you will have a very stiff uphill battle explaining to me why Bush does.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 9:36 PM | Politics 2006 | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)
Comments

Ms. McArdle is dead on concerning Roosevelt. But when FDR took office, capitalism and democracy were on its knees. The world wide Depression and uneasy peace following WWI made fertile ground for dictators and tyrants.

Roosevelt expanded the powers of the Federal government and the president in particular exponentially - but that is what the era demanded. Thank god for civil libertarians and an occasionally contrarian Supreme Court for keeping him in check.

GWB on the other hand took office following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Democracy and freedom 'were' on the march. America was the unquesioned moral, military and economic leader of the world. These feelings carried us through September 11 and Afghanistan, but then GWB went too far.

Posted by: Patrick at September 22, 2006 8:32 AM

The differences between FDR and GWB are huge. First, FDR had an appetite for learning and a large intellect. Second, he had an understanding of the future. Don't think so? Just take a look at the planning that went into Postwar Japan and Germany. The amount of people and pages, the diffreing opinons he obtained. He ignored some, and chose others, because that is the perogative of power, but he listened to many.

Also, as was noted, FDR pushed through much, but lost a lot on the Courts and the Senate. GWB does not believe in the Separation of Powers, and is contemptuous of them. The importance of the three branches of gevernment to act separately as need be is what makes us unique. Bush has as much contempt for others as Andrew Jackson. But he ain't Old Hickory either.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at September 22, 2006 9:24 AM

"Second, he had an understanding of the future. Don't think so? Just take a look at the planning that went into Postwar Japan and Germany."

The Marshall Plan was put into effect two years after his death. For years after the war there were parts of Europe that was near starvation so I'm not sure what "planning" Roosevelt had for the immediate aftermath. Oh, and he got played by Stalin like few people in history have been suckered by another leader.

Posted by: andrew at September 22, 2006 10:16 AM

Interesting; both Patrick and Daryl do not deny FDR's unprecedented executive power grab. But they become apologists for his cause.

First, Patrick defends FDR through the reason that these were extraordinary times (depression, post war recovery, etc.) This is certainly a legitmate argument but it is the same argument the GWB uses. Really, it is at the heart of the current debate between conservatives and liberals. The conservatives generally view the war against the Islamic extremists as extraordinary times that require extraordinary measures while the liberals do not see the current threat so great as to require extraordinary measures. Fine let that debate begin.

Daryl meanwhile defends FDR on the basis of his aptitude and motives. The obvious conclusion is that executive power grabs are okay if the president has the "intellect" and/or correct motives. This is an obvioius dangerous and impossible to determine criteria for expanding presidential authority.

"if FDR doesn't terrify you, then you will have a very stiff uphill battle explaining to me why Bush does". Sorry guys you didn't even make the first step up that hill.

Posted by: Treerat at September 22, 2006 10:25 AM

If FDR doesn't terrify you, then you will have a very stiff uphill battle explaining to me why Bush does.

Do I get a prize for being appalled and terrified by both? Not even Roosevelt tried to legalize torture and ditch the Geneva Convention. Now we have the permanent suspension of habeas corpus. Before you go trying to deny it, Crank, I'd like to hear exactly what this latest legislative capitulation to the President's wishes doesn't permit.

Posted by: Rob McMillin at September 22, 2006 11:15 AM

FDR did round up native born US citizens and put them in detention camps.

Posted by: rbj at September 22, 2006 11:41 AM

Andrew, the Marshall Plan was the final result of years of planning. He had many people working on different plans. Blumenthal for instance was dealing with one such plan, little of which found its way to the final result. However, there was a plan in place.

And Treerat, I was not defending or supporting FDR's so called grab for power, which was not the first, and was not the last. Jackson did, Polk, Lincoln, TR went for it as well. What happened in many cases was that CONGRESS was there to check and balance the chief executive's grab. Bush took for several reasons: he wanted it (but I doubt you become President because you don't want to), and mostly, there was a vacuum, and you know what nature says about that. Congress adbicated their responsibility. Simple. Finally, they've had enough with being eunuchs, well the senate has anyway, and lo and behold! They are reblels, traitors, dastards. No, they are being senators. That is their job.

If you don't like it, vote them out. I wish we would vote them all out. So maybe then a message could be sent: we trusted you with the powers of the United States, we pay you with money, respect and power. Your job for that is to uphold your oath and do the damn job.

Posted by: Daryl Rosenblatt at September 22, 2006 11:41 AM

Wow, not only is Rob 0-3 on his list of terribles (suspension of habeas corpus? I'll alert Vallandigham), but he completely ignores the worse deprevations of FDR. The detention camps were a lot worse than anything Bush has so far tried to do.

Posted by: paul zummo at September 22, 2006 11:54 AM

Good summary Treerat. And I agree these are also extraordinary times - Roosevelt faced a Nazi take over of Europe while a third of our population stood jobless, but he never saw two skyscrapers taken down here in what was then considered Fortress America.

So both presidents expanded their powers and dangerously stretched the limits of the constitution in the face of unprecedented threats.

The difference, in my view, is a) competence and b) a willingness to work with other countries.

If I felt GWB and his colleagues were capable of fighting this war on terror with minimal oversight, I would not be as outraged. But from everything we've seen, this administration demands complete control and then #$!!;'s everthing up, time after time after time.

Posted by: Patrick at September 22, 2006 12:41 PM

The difference is simple: FDR was a liberal Democrat so we could trust him to do what was best for us...do I win a prize or anything?

It seems that a major sticking point for some of you is this nebulous "competence" ideal (and FDR's planning for a post-WW II world do little to make the case for him in that regard) so is your defense that what the presidents have done is OK constitutionally, you just don't like it when someone you disagree with utilizes such powers...or...what they've done is unconstitutional, you just can't get worked up as much about it when someone you agree with does it?

Posted by: Maryland Conservatarian at September 22, 2006 3:33 PM

suspension of habeas corpus

Zummo -- ever tried reading Hamdi v. Rumsfeld? Nah, probl'y not.

Posted by: Rob McMillin at September 22, 2006 7:05 PM

The proof of whether President Bush is as bad (or worse) that FDR will be seen 30 years from now.
The expansive federal (socialist) government that FDR started has not stopped growing, and will not stop growing, thanks to seperation of power.
But, any student of history knows that FDR was a dictator. His death ended his reign, not a free election nor a constitutional amendment. (side note: we critcize McCarthy President Bush but don't criticize FDR?!?)
President Bush is not a dicatator and will be gone in two years, that is a constitutional fact. His impact on US history and American culture will be known on the next generation, not this generation.
If we (conservative and liberal) really want to control our government, then why not impose term limits on the House of Representatives and the Senate. Of course, this will not happen, because Congress will have to agree and they cannot even agree on the day of the week.
Our political process needs a shakeup, maye even a revolution. But, again, if you study history, after each war (real or perceived) our government asumes more power for our better good.
Any real suggestion on how to truly make this government of the people and for the people?

Posted by: Les at September 22, 2006 9:23 PM

each war (real or perceived) our government asumes more power for our better good.

Presumably you mean "in the name of the better good".

Posted by: Rob McMillin at September 22, 2006 10:05 PM

"The difference, in my view, is a) competence and b) a willingness to work with other countries."

The idea that Bush has been so "incompetent" in the war is laughable. There were individual battles in our history where we lost more soldiers than we have combined in the 5 years after 9/11. Treating the violence and chaos inherent in any conflict as some sort of unique circumstance of the Bush Administration is silly.

And the "willingness to work with other countries" is just as confused. What are you talking about? There weren't even that many countries that Roosevelt could work with at the time, it's an entriely different situation than today, except for the fact that Britain and Australia are dependable allies and the French are worse than useless.

Posted by: andrew at September 23, 2006 1:43 AM

I got stopped last night over on highway 270 for a DUI roadblock. They had one there we had to go through last Christmas too, wife and I just going out for a candlelight service at a crummy little local church.

Doing nothing wrong, minding our own business. Jerked off the road by agents of the state holding the power to toss us in jail for any perceived slight.

"Your paperz pleaze?"

I haven't lost a single civil right to GWB. Not even one. I never thought I had a right to call terrosists overseas, and it never occurred to me that I should be able to move huge blocks of money around by wire overseas and nobody would know anything about it.

I do, however, have the expectation that I can go to the local Chinese place on a Friday evening without being harrassed by agents of the state. Frankly, the wailing about loss of civil rights under GWB makes my eyes roll.

And yes, FDR was far closer to unbridled executive power. He was all but King for Life.

Posted by: Dwilkers at September 23, 2006 6:32 AM

Re: "The idea that Bush has been so "incompetent" in the war is laughable. "

The week of the 1,000th day in WWII we entered Germany. We are now 1,285 days into the Iraq war. What have we accomplished?

Admit it Andy - Hollywood screenwriters could have drafted a more realistic post invasion plan then the Bush Administration.

The President marched our troops into battle halfway around the world based on intelligence gathered from a slew of half wits and scoundrels, skilled only at telling these idealogues exactly what they wanted to hear about the situation in Iraq.

Though I will agree Roosevelt was not always succesful - he just was never as clueless and ill prepared as GWB.

Roosevelt's radical economic reforms did not accomplish very much during his first seven years in office. If not for the war, the depression may have continued for another 10-20 years.

So judged by my competency test, I'd say liberties he took with the Consititution on the economic front (eg, setting the minimum wage in resteraunts across the country even though there were no Interstate Commerce justification), can not be justified. (so I wonder why MD Con assumes I am liberal but oh well).

Posted by: patrick at September 23, 2006 2:03 PM

"The week of the 1,000th day in WWII we entered Germany. We are now 1,285 days into the Iraq war."

I'm not sure what your point is. I would prefer twenty Iraq wars to a conventional war against another industrialized power where we lose hundreds of thousands of soldiers (not to mention millions and millions of civilians). And what does the length of time have to do with anything? Some of our wars have been shorter and some longer.


"What have we accomplished?"

Think. Real hard.


"Admit it Andy - Hollywood screenwriters could have drafted a more realistic post invasion plan then the Bush Administration."

Not even Hollywood would come up with a scenario where a dysfunctional country run by a mass murdering police state for decades could be turned into Switzerland in a couple of years. Tone down the hyperbole a few notches.

Posted by: andrew at September 23, 2006 6:36 PM

"Not even Hollywood would come up with a scenario where a dysfunctional country run by a mass murdering police state for decades could be turned into Switzerland in a couple of years."

Yet the Bush administration was peddling that fantasy back before the war -- remember Dick 'We'll be greeted as liberators' Cheney on Meet the Press in March 2003. And it would cost nothing becuase the oil revenues would pay for it in a matter of months.

I agree its bizarre that anyone bought it but we figured these guys knew what they were doing. These bufoons should be granted less power and more oversight...if only.

Posted by: patrick at September 23, 2006 11:37 PM
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