Checks and No Balance

The story is Bush's spying, not the story's messenger

The words and deeds of these White House residents point to other conclusions. They seem to be reaching for virtually unchecked power—power even to override laws at will in a nation founded on the rule of law.

This president promised to restore "honor and integrity" to the White House. And when he was elected to a second term, he said happily and boldly to a press conference: "You asked, do I feel free. Let me put it to you this way. I earned capital in the campaign, political capital—and now I intend to spend it."

His bypassing the law, was that what he meant by those promises? Could the president actually have forgotten that in this country, the monarchy was abolished—and any autocracy forbidden—more than two centuries ago?

Striking differences

New York City used to think of itself as a union town that had some empathy for working people. Now, we seem to be in a more Darwinian mood.

In the transit strike that lasted only three days, the city's newspapers showed little good feeling for the grievances of the struggling workers. The tabloids tended to bare their flesh-eating teeth, particularly the New York Post, which labeled the strikers as dregs of society and greedy rodents—using the kind of venom the paper usually reserves for rapist "fiends." One Post banner headline was, simply: "You Rats." All those years ago, the Post used to care about working people. Now it's a Murdoch paper.

On local television, more often than not, the cameras brought us scenes of raging subway riders and commuters. That's known in TV land as giving the viewers "red meat."

I mention this sociological sea change not to take sides or suggest that the hardships for subway and bus riders weren't severe. I merely note that some of us carry memories from earlier times, when Mike Quill of the Transit Workers Union and Mayor John Lindsay traded theatrical insults (Quill called him "Mayor Lindsley" to annoy him). It was a time when the public seemed to roll better with the punches and to accept a short strike partly as urban theater. This time, when Mayor Bloomberg called the union "selfish" and "thuggish," he seemed to mean it.

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