The Caesar Singularity

Delay’s Ethics. Posse Comitatus. Avian Flu. Clinton Impeachment. Valerie Plame. Hurrican Katrina. Julius Caesar. When it all comes to an end, I can’t see past the “Caesar Singularity”.

The new bad idea out of the White House this weekend was the idea of making the Pentagon the “lead agency” in the case of national catastrophe. The President has asked Congress to consider ammending the Posse Comitatus Act, which generally prohibits domestic deployment of the American military. Most responses , from the military, the press, Congress and the States’ governors, seem to be thoughtfully opposed. Some have better soundbites than others:

“People in Washington, D.C., can yap all they want but they’re not going to undermine the constitution of the state of Montana.”—Brian Schweitzer, Governor of Montana.

For myself, one of the best blocks of text written comes from Vox Day’s article at WorldNetDaily:

Even if the current president has the purest and most angelic of intentions, as well as Christ in his heart, such legislation is akin to placing the collective neck of the American public in the guillotine for the remainder of the Republic’s doomed existence. For sooner or later, there will be other presidents who are not so virtuous. If the American people are so foolish as to grant the present administration its wish for this anti-constitutional abomination, they will richly deserve the servitude to which they will inevitably be reduced.

I have nothing to add to any of that, it’s been said so well by so many that I won’t duplicate the effort in a vain attempt to write it better. This is where I start:

“I wonder how long after this law passes there will be a terrorist attack that sets off the automatic trigger. Six months? Six days?” (Vox Popoli)

Scott already told us what the White House thinking is along those lines:

MR. McCLELLAN: The purpose that we’re talking about here is a major catastrophic event like a category five hurricane, like a disease outbreak of avian flu, for instance—that’s something the President is very focused on—or a large-scale terrorist attack…

Not Ebola, as in Outbreak. The President is “very focused” on the avian flu (aka H5N1). Plutonium Page’s post on DailyKos is as good a start as any, and it points to the Avian Flu Wiki.

What is the President thinking?

“If avian flu were to hit this country… [d]oes the federal government have the authority necessary to make certain decisions?” (LA Times)

While the military’s excellent performance during Hurrican Katrina makes it almost palpable, I expect that the threat of a pandemic is a better argument for ammending Posse Comitatus. To be honest, the “up to two years” in jail for sending troops to the streets doesn’t seem like much of a punishment. It’s not the kind of jail time that’s going to convince a dictator he has to hold onto power and go down in history as the man who distroyed the Republic, which is I guess the point: Even if you step over the line, you can still go back.

So let me raise the personal stakes for the Commander-in-Chief to Julius Caesar proportions: Suppose vengeful Democrats come to power in Congress on a wave of reaction against Delay’s Indictments and other Capitol Hill ethics scandals. Then the Plame Investigation somehow implicates the big man himself as a periferal party to the conspiracy (which by now, it clearly was). Democrats, drunk on being back in power, go looking to avenge Clinton and start impeachment proceedings. Then comes the pandemic which justifies nation-wide domestic deployment of the Armed Forces.

Would President George W. Bush cross the Rubicon? What would he do when the pandemic was over? Caesar was killed by the Senators.

That, my friends, is the Caesar Singularity.