The Corner

Bush = Mussolini

Instapundit has a good rundown of the story, first posted here by Kathryn, about federal judge Guido Calabresi comparing Bush to Hilter and Mussolini. I defer to Reynolds and Volokh on the ethical problem the judge’s comments pose. Though it really does sound monstrously inappropriate. But I might surprise people when I say that in terms of historical analysis he’s not entirely batty. Of course, I think it’s absurd to compare Bush to Hitler or Mussolini in terms of the substance of their policies etc. But Calabresi is right that fascism is the product of democratic systems gone wonky. And he’s also right that FDR assumed vast powers that he had no right too assume (and which invited the charge that he was a fascist from all over the world and from critics on the right and the left) and which were far, far more unprecedented than anything Bush has asserted. Indeed, any extraordinary powers Bush has asserted, as far as I know, are all supported by precedents from the Roosevelt administration.

But what I find absurd and ironic is his argument that Bush should be “expelled” from office regardless of the merits in order to “cleanse” the Democratic system. “That’s got nothing to do with the politics of it. It’s got to do with the structural reassertion of democracy,” Judge Calabresi said.

Why wouldn’t a landslide re-election of Bush reassert the authority of democracy? That’s why politicians stand for re-election in the first place, isn’t it. Gerald Ford wasn’t elected — or even voted on. But he ran for president. Several vice-presidents were made president by “extra-democratic” means — i.e. assasinations — and then ran for election themselves. That’s how Teddy Roosevelt — no stranger to asserting presidential power — became president. Doesn’t Calabresi’s formulation suggest that intervention by the Supreme Court is somehow more damning than murder?

And let us not forget the recent election in Missouri which put the widow of a candidate in office even though her name wasn’t on the ballot. Then there was the New Jersey election in which a disgraced candidate withdrew and a new one was put on the ballot in defiance of the rules. Maybe I missed Calabresi’s speech on those cases.

Calabresi’s argument for ousting Bush seems like a silly and partisan rationalization for his desire to oust Bush. And, I should say, that demanding a popular uprising to “cleanse” the decadent democratic system in order to sweep your side into power is itself an argument a great many fascists would find very familiar.

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