Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A tale of two presidents

The rule of law, ultimately, is about putting restrictions on power.

Both the American and Venezuelan constitutions go out of their way to put roadblocks between the executive branch and absolute power. In both nations the current occupants of the executive branch are attempting to circumvent these roadblocks. Bush among other things, through signing statements asserting a theory of unitary executive tantamount to an imperial presidency, Chavez through an "enabling law" passed by a legislature made up almost entirely of his supporters giving him the power to rule by decree for a year and a half.

Of course Chavez won all of his elections and still holds massive popular support for his rule and his agenda while Bush came to office through the good graces of the vote counting in a state run by his brother and judges appointed by his father - and oh yeah, is now polling at the kind of numbers that made Nixon resign.

In both cases however, and despite whatever good intentions may be behind these two men's power grabs, their actions are deeply threatening to the very idea of civil society.

If democracy is to be more than a brand name then those claiming the validity of it's imprimatur must also respect it's restrictions.

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