Here's what happens when this irresponsible Congress railroads a profoundly important bill to serve the mindless politics of a midterm election: The Bush administration uses Republicans' fear of losing their majority to push through ghastly ideas about antiterrorism that will make American troops less safe and do lasting damage to our 217-year-old nation of laws - while actually doing nothing to protect the nation from terrorists. Democrats betray their principles to avoid last-minute attack ads. Our democracy is the big loser.
Last week, the White House and three Republican senators announced a terrible deal on this legislation that gave Mr. Bush most of what he wanted, including a blanket waiver for crimes Americans may have committed in the service of his antiterrorism policies. Then Vice President Dick Cheney and his willing lawmakers rewrote the rest of the measure so that it would give Mr. Bush the power to jail pretty much anyone he wants for as long as he wants without charging them, to unilaterally reinterpret the Geneva Conventions, to authorize what normal people consider torture, and to deny justice to hundreds of men captured in error.
These are some of the bill's biggest flaws:
A long list, actually an obituary for "the rule of law", follows.
We don't blame the Democrats for being frightened. The Republicans have made it clear that they'll use any opportunity to brand anyone who votes against this bill as a terrorist enabler. But Americans of the future won't remember the pragmatic arguments for caving in to the administration.
They'll know that in 2006, Congress passed a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation's version of the Alien and Sedition Acts.
This will eventually be struck down just as those acts were, but in the meantime our rights and civil liberties have been struck a mighty fascist blow.