I cannot let pass, however, a sentence on page 17: "While the Executive should wield all his powers under the constitution with energy, he should not be able to abrogate the constitution except in face of war, revolution or economic chaos." True that the sainted Lincoln did suspend habeas corpus and when the Chief Justice of the United States freed a Southern sympathizer on the ground he had been illegally arrested, kept the prisoner in jail nonetheless, observing, "Justice Tawney [sic] has made his ruling. Now let him enforce it"--an aside all too reminiscent of Stalin's famous query as to how many divisions the Pope commanded. Also true that Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt cut a few corners in wartime--and why is it always the great liberal presidents who do these things? Maybe because they have good consciences, supplied by intellectuals like Mr. Schlesinger. But even a liberal Northern Democrat might be given pause by the above formulation; he might think these wartime abrogations of the constitution were shameful and against his principles; he might remember that, except for Lincoln, no president, even in wartime, has openly "abrogated the constitution," although our author takes it as a matter of course; and he might also remember that no president so far has abrogated the constitution on the plea of "economic chaos," and wonder why Schlesinger should give away in advance, nay even suggest, such an invasion of our constitutional rights. In fact, he might have disturbing thoughts about Heroic Leadership and about the part played by liberalistic ideologues like Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., in justifying such illiberal, not to say unconstitutional, tactics even before the Heroic Leaders themselves have attempted them.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Dwight Macdonald (1906-1982) reviews The Politics of Hope by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. (1917-2007) in The New York Review of Books, Volume 1, Number 1, February 1, 1963.
at 7:09 AM