The United States has never been a nation of laws

"America is a nation of laws, not men", says Ron Paul fan Ed Snowden explaining his disdain for the Obama Administration (which seems to have been following a law he dislikes).  Snowden was just echoing the sentiments of Glenn Greenwald whose God-like status among the liberal pundit and opinion makers is creepy but revealing. Here’s Greenwald:

American history is suffused with violations of equality before the law. The country was steeped in such violations at its founding. But even when this principle was being violated, its supremacy was also being affirmed: resoundingly and unanimously in the case of the founders. That the rule of law—not the rule of men—would reign supreme was one of the few real points of agreement among all the founders. Arguably it was the primary one.

So even though many of “the founders”  lived in luxury on the backs of men and women who had been violently kidnapped,  imprisoned in grotesque squalor, raped, beaten,  and forced to hard labor by frequent applications of torture and murder, the supremacy of equal justice under the law was resoundingly and unanimously affirmed?  Please proceed, Mr. Greenwald.  

And the most significant episodes of progress over the next two centuries—the emancipation of slaves, the ending of Jim Crow, the enfranchisement and liberation of women, vastly improved treatment for Native Americans and gay Americans—were animated by this ideal. That happened because “blind justice”—equality before law—was orthodoxy in American political culture. The principle was sacrosanct even when it was imperfectly applied.

What can Greenwald possibly mean by “orthodoxy in American political culture” or “sacrosanct”?  How can someone write something like that just 50 years after George Wallace tried to block the entrance to the University of Alabama to the wide applause of millions of Americans? What was “sacrosanct” about equality before the law when the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court wrote that black people “had no rights which the white man was bound to respect” in 1857?  Or when President Wilson expressed sympathy to the “lynch law”  terrorism of the South in 1912. Or when Rockefeller machine gunned strikers in Ludlow Colorado in 1914. Or when DOMA was passed in 1996 for that matter?

You might conclude that Greenwald is just ignorant, but that doesn’t explain why the editors at the liberal Harpers magazine and so many of their peers and readers found this stuff so … delicious. To see the answer  we just have to follow along this same article until we get to the present day and the reign of Greenwald’s bête noir: Barack Obama. Greenwald’s story is that all this equal under the law goodness marched along happily until Ford pardoned Nixon suddenly placing the power elite above the law. Apparently in some version of US history that I am unfamiliar with, prior to 1973 members of the ruling classes were routinely subjected to stringent legal penalties in the case of wrongdoing. Greenwald provides, let’s see, zero examples of this phenomenon. Regardless, we left Eden and things went from bad to worse, culminating in Bush Jr. and his clone the evil Obama.

We see this over and over, and it’s what the Obama war on whistleblowers is all about. The only real, cognizable crime—the only one the Obama DOJ displays any real interest in punishing—is committed by those who expose elite criminality, not those who commit it. The attempt to prosecute WikiLeaks is driven by this same mindset.[…]

Obama is in campaign mode, and what he has convincingly demonstrated is that the inspiring, passionate speeches he delivers have little relationship to his actions.[…]

Which whistleblowers prosecuted by the Obama administration have exposed elite criminality? In this “interview” Greenwald mentions only one whistleblower, Thomas Tamm. The Bush DOJ investigated Tamm, and the Obama DOJ dropped the investigation and all charges. Who else does he have in mind? If you really stretch the definition of whistleblower you might could find one. What’s fascinating here is that Greenwald says

Many of the themes sounded in Obama’s Kansas speech were valid and appropriate, but that matters little

Because if a President talks about liberty but prosecutes one or two whistleblowers, that’s unforgivable. Whip a few slaves, well you can still be resoundingly affirming grand principles. But enforce a law passed by Congress on one or two  leakers - that’s serious stuff.

For many of us who do not share Greenwald’s political theory, the Obama Department of Justice has been most notable for bringing the Civil Rights division back to life after George W. Bush killed it. Instead of defending the “civil rights” of the Salvation Army to discriminate against gay people, the DOJ has been protecting rights of people in custody against police violence, defending voting rights, and pursuing businesses and local governments that violate civil rights. But Greenwald, who begins by waving off slavery, has no trouble in ignoring civil rights enforcement. It’s almost as if this supporter of Ron Paul had a race problem - ah but that can’t be. Can it?

There is zero basis for believing that Obama will change course on any of these matters in his second term. There is always another election ahead that apologists can cite to justify bad acts (You have to understand: it’s vital that Democrats win the 2014 midterms). And Obama has displayed no interest whatsoever in holding elites accountable for criminality: not just political actors, but financial elites as well.

In other words, by shielding those who came before him, Obama ensures that he can commit crimes with impunity as well. That’s why all elites—political, financial, media—are motivated to defend and preserve this lawbreaking license for their class. [bold added]

Whatever the reason for Greenwald’s lack of interest in voting rights,he has a strong interest in voting or more precisely in not voting.  The right that people gave their lives to win as late as the 1960s - back when equal rights was still that sacrosanct orthodoxy - is one that Conservatives oppose bitterly and liberal/libertarians constantly tell us is meaningless and not worth exercising.

"There is always another election ahead that apologists can cite to justify bad acts (You have to understand: it’s vital that Democrats win the 2014 midterms).”

Ha!  Good one Glenn. Unlike apologists, moral people don’t care about elections or Democrats winning. They have principles! Principles that apparently don’t  involve voting rights or any civil rights at all. That stuff is a sideshow to the big tent event of pretending that the USA is a nation of laws and not men. And if expounding these moral principles helps the Koch brothers ( Mr. Greenwald’s sometime funders)  get their dunces in office it’s just a coincidence. Isn’t it?

Oh, I was going to explain why Harpers editors and so many of their readers and fellow Obama critical colleagues find Mr. Greenwald so convincing. After all, that’s a well educated, literate, learned group many of whom have probably even read Foner or Dubois. Well, for  most of them, I imagine it’s that orthodox American problem: reluctance to accept a black supervisor.

The Greenwald quotes can be found here.