Saturday, March 24, 2007

Of Politia: Principium vs. Praetextere

Principium: first things
Praetextere: to pretend, lit., to weave in front, hence, adorn

Principle: a high-level and universally applicable directing guideline.
Pretext: something that is put forward to conceal a true purpose or object; an ostensible reason; excuse

From E. J. Dionne's column today (emphasis mine):

The senator vigorously rejected the president's claim of executive privilege. "I find this extraordinary and troublesome," he said, "and I think it will ultimately be damaging to the president. . . . This is an attempt to stonewall our committee, and the public will be outraged."

Doesn't that sound like one of those tough statements by Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Democratic point man on the U.S. attorney scandal? The speaker was actually the Republican whom Schumer defeated nine years ago, Alfonse D'Amato, discussing Bill Clinton's invocation of executive privilege in the Whitewater investigation. Nice to see Chuck and Al agree on something.

So many principles that Republicans held dear when they were trying to take Clinton down are no longer operative. This certainly applies to a 1998 column now whizzing around the Internet that ran under the headline "Executive Privilege Is a Dodge." It was written by Tony Snow, who is now President Bush's press secretary.

Bottom line - a principle that is not applied in all circumstances is NOT a principle. It's probably a pretext.

I fail to understand how these people can think we can't see through all of this smoke and hear through all of this sound and fury.

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