Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Monday: "President Washington, President Lincoln, President Wilson, President Roosevelt have all authorized electronic surveillance on a far broader scale."
Three questions here. How did President Washington generate the 1.21 gigawatts of power required to fire up the flux capacitor in his souped up DeLorean time machine? Did he use the Mr. Fusion modification to get up to the requisite 88 miles per hour? And, as Atrios asked, what war was he fighting during his presidency which enabled him wartime executive powers? Strike that. I forgot. Washington fought with John and Sara Conner in the war against cybernetic organisms -- unsuccessfully since one of them would go on to become governor of California.
So for those of you Bush apologists ready to regurgitate Gonzales' justifications at the office Tuesday, you should know that electronic communication didn't exist during Washington's presidency. Neither did electric power for that matter. Or a war. Thought I'd save you the embarrassment. Especially those of you who are IT professionals.
Some other presidential facts which Gonzales failed to mention whilst citing precident from decades and centuries ago...
President Roosevelt's war included federally sanctioned Japanese internment camps in which American citizens were detained en masse. But unlike President Bush's war, Roosevelt's war had a reasonably defined end: the surrender of the Axis powers.
Bush's war doesn't have a defined end. In August 2004, Bush said, "I don't think you can win it." Maybe the president meant "you" as in, "you, the person asking the question can't win the war but I can." How's about Bush and his sudden use of nuanced language? Like, "Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal: to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025 -- NOT LITERALLY." Or, "Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way." Bush didn't mean all wiretaps, just "a" wiretap -- the singular -- as in one wiretap. Nuance.
Andrew Jackson didn't conduct electronic surveillance -- unless he borrowed Washington's DeLorean, that is. He did, however, defy the Supreme Court by expelling the Cherokee nation from their homeland dooming 4,000 of them to die along the way. He did it all with full support of the American people.
Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe all owned slaves. While they were president. Out of 18 total slave-owning presidents, eight of them owned slaves while in office. Then again, slavery was perfectly legal in the United States in those days -- as was wiretapping without a warrant once, you know, wires were invented.
We've come a long way as a nation. Questionable, illegal, and immoral acts committed under the banner of the Executive in the past don't qualify as legal justifications for President Bush -- or any other president for that matter -- in the present or future. Speaking of which, a note to future generations: if you see a guy in pantaloons and a powdered wig running around with a googly-eyed scientist named Doc Brown, he's probably tapping your phones. From inside his DeLorean. Which is a time machine.