I don’t particularly agree with Goldsmith’s politics — he’s a very conservative lawyer who writes here about his time working in the Office of Legal Counsel in Ashcroft’s Justice Department — but I really liked reading this book. It gives a thorough analysis of Goldsmith’s work related to much of the 9/11-related opinions, and his eventual overturning of the infamous terror-memo. Goldsmith doesn’t have any particular ethical objection to torture — in fact, he supports it — but he has strong objections to how we’re going about it. In particular, he argued with Gonzales and Cheney et al that the executive branch of our government should have worked with Congress to pass laws which would explicitly make what we’re doing in Guantanamo and elsewhere legal. He objects to the overreach of the Executive branch and the needless use/usurpation of power that they’ve exhibited over the past several years.
What this book did for me was to help me understand what’s happening in our government today, and to separate the issues of what I believe is ethical (and how America & Americans should behave) from what is lawful under our Constitution and laws. And it reinforced to me that future generations will look back at these two terms and bemoan the fundamental weakening of our governmental system by the Bush Administration. The disdain it has for checks and balances, the love of secrecy, and the conviction that fighting to keep Americans safe means that they shouldn’t have to be accountable to those same citizens they’re trying to secure.
It also was great to read a long, well-reasoned, complete argument for something, even though I don’t believe in the fundamental basis for that argument. Reminded me that we’re living in a sound bite oriented world, and we need to try not to be.
Recommended for anyone who’s interested in how the legal aspects of our present government work, although the politics will be tough for blue staters.