There is only one question worth asking of either of the candidates for the presidency in tonight’s foreign policy debate. Alas, asking it would be pointless. Here’s roughly how I figure an exchange involving the question would play out:
Moderator: Mr. President, it is widely known that on “Terrorist Tuesday” you peruse biographies which have been compiled by senior intelligence analysts on individuals suspected of harboring terrorist sentiments against the United States. Based on the biographies, you unilaterally decide which of the suspect individuals is allowed to live and which is to be targeted for assassination by unmanned drones. Some of the names on the “kill list”, the compilation of those whom you have decreed must die, are American citizens. Thus you have personally ordered the assassination of American citizens, orders which the executive branch of the US government has carried out.
Mr. President, you were at one time a constitutional law professor. Is it constitutionally permissible for the US government to deprive American citizens of their lives without the due process of law in this manner?
Obama: the Constitution is not a suicide pact…blah, blah, blah…when the security and safety of the republic is at stake…blah, blah, blah.
Mr. President, would you therefore approve of Mr. Romney unilaterally ordering the assassination of American citizens with zero oversight from either of the judicial or legislative branches of government were he to win election in November?
Obama: Uh, no, uh…ordering the assassination of terrorists who would harm our country is a heavy burden that should fall only the shoulders of the most capable and wise, which is to say, upon the shoulders of people like me and not him…blah, blah, blah…so no, I think Mr. Romney ought not be allowed the privilege of assassinating US citizens…blah, blah, blah…but it’s okay if I do it.
Moderator: Mr. Romney, you have not said a peep while on the campaign trail about the President’s policy of unilaterally targeting US citizens for assassination. Do you think that a President should be vested with the power to order the killing, with no oversight and no due process, of anyone he deems a threat to the US, including its own citizens?
Mr. Romney: No, I believe it is an outrageous usurpation of power by the executive office of government and that President Obama should be tried for war crimes.
Moderator: Do you think therefore that there should be legislative and judicial oversight of President Obama’s ordered assassinations?
Mr. Romney: No. I simply believe it be outrageously unconstitutional in the manner that the President has conducted the policy and it should cease.
Moderator: So if you win the election in November, will you pledge to cease the US government policy of assassinating its own citizens on the orders of its President?
Mr. Romney: I pledge to do what’s best for America…blah, blah, blah…protecting her from terrorists…blah, blah, blah…only killing people who would put the safety of Americans at risk.
The cameras pan to the Statue of Liberty, where a glint of light from her crown catches a tear trickling down her cheek. The scene shifts to the National Archives where the original US Constitution is stored. As the document comes into focus, the ink fades from view, rendering a blank page, as if the crowning achievement of ten thousand years of civilization, the sacred covenant between a government and its people, had been written with a vanishing ink pen from a box of Crackerjacks.
Even were this single most relevant question to the survival of the republic asked, it would only yield prevarications, political posturing and pomposity. There is again no reason to watch the debate. It doesn’t matter which Caesar gains power, the Rubicon has already been crossed. The constitutional republic is dead. Americans let the trifling fear instigated by a bunch of towel-headed fanatics lead it to constitutional suicide.