But way before Ike did his best to tell us what was going to happen if we weren't careful, another president gave a farewell address that warned us about George Bush:
Political parties serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels, and modified by mutual interests.
However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people, and to usurp for themselves the reins of government; destroying afterwards the very engines, which have lifted them to unjust dominion.
That's from George Washington's farewell address (h/t Scott Horton). Did you have to be a George Washington to figure this out: "...unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people..." I was physically attacked, made fun of, blacklisted by Republican co-workers who spread the word not to hire me, called a traitor and a commie, all because I tried to warn people, before he was even appointed by the Supreme Court, that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were unprincipled men who would subvert the power of the people.
Washington even tried to warn us that these men would start dangerous wars of choice with their out-of-control military. He prayed that we would...
...avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty. In this sense it is that your union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.
If my union is the main prop of my liberty, then shouldn't I protect my union from another Bush/Cheney "administration" in order to preserve my liberty? Shouldn't we, as patriotic Americans aware of our history and the admonishments of past presidents, work to avoid the necessity of an overgrown military establishment which is inauspicious to liberty? Do we not have a duty to past Americans who have fought and died for our rights to fight for the liberty of our descendants?
What would be the best way to stop future presidents from usurping the power of the people? Should we move on and not bog ourselves down in the bickering that would accompany trials of war criminals from the highest echelons of government? Will we signal to future presidents that they will be considered above the law as long as their partisans promise to bicker and complain that the prosecution is not deserved because it is being controlled by someone from a different faction?
If fear of political harm prevents the prosecution of criminals, then wouldn't criminals simply threaten political division and wrangling in order to avoid prosecution? Has political calculation won over an executive's duty to uphold the law and the constitution?
Listen carefully to the oath of office on Tuesday. The promise that President Elect Obama makes will be:
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
This oath does not mention protecting Americans from terrorists no matter what the cost to liberty. It doesn't say anything about letting people avoid prosecution because it would be divisive or distracting. It doesn't even say anything about getting God's help. It says to protect and defend the Constitution, to the best of your ability. I know that the best of Obama'a ability is pretty damn good. I heard what his Attorney General Designate said about torture. I heard Obama say no one is above the law. He is capable of heeding the warnings of Eisenhower, Washington, and many other presidents.
As for how we managed to get to this place, it seems we just don't listen, do we? America has a long, rich history that we will be doomed to repeat if we don't study it, and prosecute those responsible for usurping the power of the people and ignoring the rule of law.