OF PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS - “Feeling More Secure”

(06/28/2002)

By Tony Russell

I was having lunch with my friend Weldon at a local diner yesterday. We didn’t mean to be eavesdropping, but we couldn’t help but overhear the conversation between the two women in the booth behind us. Like everyone else nowadays, all they could talk about was security-how insecure they felt, and how happy they were that the President was doing all he could to make them safer.

“The whole 9-11 thing was so unsettling,” lamented one. “I had Dave go right out and put a new bulb in our yard light.”

“I know what you mean,” said the other. “We had intended to go to the Bridge Day festivities this year, but Jim said no way. He usually jumps off with his bungee cords at least three times, but he said he just didn’t feel safe doing it this year.”

“I’ll tell you,” confided the first, “I’ve been sleeping a whole lot better since the President and the Attorney General began rounding up these terrorists.”

“Oh definitely,” said her friend. “It’s such a relief just to have them in jail. And it doesn’t look as if they’re going to get out any time soon, either.”

“It doesn’t, does it?” agreed the first. “I’m so impressed with the manly way they cut through all that red tape. No evidence, no charges, no judge, no hearing, no sentence-just threw them in jail.”

“Well, that’s the American way, isn’t it?” said her friend. “Practical. Just do what needs to be done, and let other people quibble over their little procedural hang-ups.”

I had been watching Weldon get redder and redder. At that point, he blew. He turned around and jumped right in. “Ladies,” he said, “those ‘little procedural hang-ups’ you’re blowing off happen to be the Bill of Rights. And if the administration gets away with shitcanning them, we’re all in trouble.”

Loretta trotted over at that point. “Weldon,” she said, “if you’re going to get loud and vulgar, I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

“It’s okay, Loretta,” I intervened. “He’ll calm down. Won’t you Weldon?”

But before he could answer, the first lady jumped back in. “Listen, Mr. Butt-insky,” she said heatedly, “we’re already in trouble, in case you didn’t know it. This country is at war, and the commander-in-chief can do whatever he needs to do in wartime.”

That really lit Weldon’s fuse. “Lady,” he said, “I’d like to draw a few things to your attention. One, Congress happens not to have declared war. Two, the Constitution doesn’t authorize the President to become a dictator even if war is declared.” As he ticked off his points, his voice kept getting louder and louder. I looked over at Loretta, who was scribbling furiously on her check pad. “Three, these power-grabs by politicians are a hell of a lot more dangerous than anything a terrorist could do to this country. The freedoms of three hundred million people are being stripped away! They’re substituting presidential decrees for the rule of law!”

Loretta threw our check on the table. “That’s it,” she said. “You’ve done it again. Now out with you. And don’t come back until you can sit and eat a peaceful meal, for a change.”

Weldon threw a five on the table and grabbed his Red Devils ball cap. He knows that when Loretta makes up her mind, there’s no appeal.


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