Bush is history, right?  He’s a lame duck, so despised that even his own party barely mentions him.  He can hardly get into more trouble.  Right?

Wrong.  He’s trying to expand the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, the fig-leaf to congressional power passed after 9/11, at the time considered simply as approval for invading Afghanistan.


The AUMF is short but grants almost unlimited power to the President: “all necessary and appropriate force” is granted to fight terrorism, without a time limit, without congressional oversight.  Bush has used the AUMF, even more than the Patriot Act, to justify his expansion of presidential power and defiance of the rule of law.

And he wants to expand it further.  The legislation he’s pushing

  • explicitly authorizes the president to “detain enemy combatants”, so no more challenges to Gitmo
  • allows detention “regardless of the place of capture”– i.e. on American soil; farewell to the Bill of Rights
  • allows detention is “until the termination of hostilities”, and of course these never end
  • expands the targeted groups– “and associated forces”, which could be almost anyone

Congress has tended to lie down like a shaved sheep whenever the words “national security” come up.  That’s got to stop.  The AUMF is too broad anyway; it should be restricted, not enlarged.  We don’t live in a superhero comic or a thriller where one man is all that stands between us and utter destruction.  Nothing has happened that requires us to throw out the separation of powers.  On the contrary: the Bush administration’s conduct of the war would have been vastly improved without its bunker mentality.

And if you’re thinking that McCain would be not quite so bad, why did he pick a vice president who derides the rule of law as “reading people their rights”?