When a federal judge compares George W. Bush to Benito Mussolini, is that newsworthy?
After the conservative daily
â€œIn a way that occurred before but is rare in the
Judge Calabresi told attorneys and law students at the American Constitution Societyâ€™s annual convention on June 19. â€œThat is what the Supreme Court did in Bush versus Gore. It put somebody in power.â€
The 71-year-old judge, who was born in
â€œThe king of
Referring to the Supreme Courtâ€™s post-election decision in 2000, Judge Calabresi said: â€œWhen somebody has come in that way, they sometimes have tried not to exercise much power. In this case, like Mussolini, he has exercised extraordinary power.â€
There doesnâ€™t seem to be any question about the accuracy of the quotations. The reporter who wrote the Sun newspaper story, Josh Gerstein, told me that he transcribed the quotes from a tape recording.
Exactly what constitutes â€œfascismâ€ may be hotly debated by political scientists and others. The definition in one dictionary refers to a â€œgovernmental system marked by stringent socioeconomic control, a strong central government usually headed by a dictator, and often a belligerently nationalistic policy.â€ But it should be clear that fascism wouldnâ€™t necessarily arrive on the heels of goose-stepping soldiers or brown-shirt thugs dressed up in Nazi regalia.
About three-quarters of a century ago, the
Consider, for instance, the assessment by Stuart Taylor Jr., a careful mainstream journalist specializing in legal issues. His article in the June 12 edition of National Journal focused on memos and reports within the Bush administration about guidelines related to interrogation and torture. â€œThese warped analyses are not just the work of a few lawyers carried away with clever circumvention of the law,â€
Taylorâ€™s conclusion should give chills to anyone who hasnâ€™t been numbed by the soothing prattle of corporate media or the complacent view that it wonâ€™t matter much whether Bush gets four more years in the White House: â€œThese perversions of the law would allow Bush to seize, imprison, and torture anyone in the world, at any time, for any reason that he associates with national security. Little did the Framers suspect that their Constitution would be twisted by a president to claim powers more appropriate to Roman emperors, Russian czars, and King George III.â€
This is not to throw the word â€œfascismâ€ around loosely. Our society continues to enjoy a wide range of freedoms. Yet fascistic repression is apt to arrive in stages.
Anyone who was paying close attention to the actions of the Ashcroft Justice Department in the wake of 9/11 has seen that elements of fascism can be implemented in the
The assumption that it canâ€™t happen here makes more likely the possibility that it will.
Norman Solomon is co-author, with foreign correspondent Reese Erlich, of "Target Iraq: What the News Media Didnâ€™t Tell You."