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January 19, 2006

A Challenge That Cannot Be Ignored


by Paul Craig Roberts

Former vice president Al Gore gave what I believe to be the most important political speech in my lifetime, and the New York Times, "the newspaper of record," did not report it. Not even excerpts.

For the New York Times, it was a nonevent that a former vice president and presidential candidate, denied the presidency by one vote of the Supreme Court, challenged the Bush administration for its illegalities, rending of the Constitution and disrespect for the separation of powers.

So much for "the liberal press" that right-wingers rant about. If a "liberal press" exists, the New York Times is certainly no longer a member.

The Washington Post had a short report on Gore's address at Constitution Hall, but the newspaper, if that is what it is, managed to dilute with sneers the seriousness and urgency of the message that Gore brought to the country.

Gore's address is the first sign of leadership from the Democratic Party in six years. This alone makes it a major news event. But not even his own party took notice. According to reports, only one Democratic senator, Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) was in the audience. One would have thought the entire Democratic congressional delegation would have turned out in support of Gore's challenge to Bush's extraordinary claims of power.

The lack of an opposition party makes the media vulnerable to intimidation by a dictatorial-minded administration.

The New York Times' ownership suppressed for one year the leaked information in the paper's possession that the Bush administration was violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and was spying on Americans without court warrants. Had the New York Times not placed a gag in its reporter's mouth and suppressed the story, Bush may have gone down in defeat as the new Richard M. Nixon. Clearly, the New York Times is failing the obligations of a free press.

Bush is angry at the New York Times and at the government officials who leaked the story that Bush illegally spied on American citizens. Both may be prosecuted for making Bush's illegal behavior public. By ignoring Gore's speech, is the New York Times signaling to Bush that the newspaper is willing to be a lap dog in exchange for not being prosecuted?

With the U.S. media now highly concentrated in a few corporate hands, has the Democratic Party reached the conclusion that opposition is no longer possible?

Once Bush places Sam Alito on the Supreme Court, he will have a high-court majority friendly to his claims that his executive powers are not constrained by congressional statutes or judicial rulings. Once a president is held to be above the law, whether for reasons of his role as commander in chief or any other, he can no longer be held accountable.

Conservatives should fear this more than anyone. The separation of powers and our civil liberties are our most precious property rights. They are our patrimony from the Founding Fathers. We are stewards of these rights, which we hold in trust for our descendants. How can any conservative fail to realize that Bush's attack on these rights is the ultimate attack on property? It is astonishing to watch conservatives wave the flag while they are transformed into subjects to be dealt with as presidential authority decides.

Gore challenged the American people to step up to the task of defending the Constitution, a task abandoned by the media, the law schools, and the Democratic and Republican parties. If we fail, darkness will close around us.


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    Paul Craig Roberts wrote the Kemp-Roth bill and was assistant secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was associate editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and contributing editor of National Review. He is author or co-author of eight books, including The Supply-Side Revolution (Harvard University Press). He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon chair in political economy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and senior research fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has contributed to numerous scholarly journals and testified before Congress on 30 occasions. He has been awarded the U.S. Treasury's Meritorious Service Award and the French Legion of Honor. He was a reviewer for the Journal of Political Economy under editor Robert Mundell.

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