'In a 1998 essay in Foreign Affairs entitled "The Rule of Law Revival," Thomas Carothers of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace wrote optimistically that the "rule of law" has now become the centerpiece, the prime consensus, for most international relations and has been recognized as the linchpin for third-world countries developing into functioning democracies. Here is how he defined the basic principles of "the rule of law":
LEGAL BEDROCKWhat is happening now in Washington is -- in every respect -- the exact opposite of this. Already, it was revealed that our highest government officials, including the President, broke the law deliberately and for years by spying on Americans without the warrants required by the laws we enacted, and all of official Washington immediately agreed that nothing should happen as a result. And nothing did happen.'
THE RULE of law can be defined as a system in which the laws are public knowledge, are clear in meaning, and apply equally to everyone. They enshrine and uphold the political and civil liberties that have gained status as universal human rights over the last half-century. . . . Perhaps most important, the government is embedded in a comprehensive legal framework, its officials accept that the law will be applied to their own conduct, and the government seeks to be law-abiding.
Greenwald's essays are so long I can rarely read them all, but there are always bits like this (and the one I quoted on Friday) that nicely cut through the nonsense of the chattering classes.