I originally reviewed this book in November of 2011 for LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers. Now that Glenn Greenwald has a new book out, No Place to Hide, I thought I would take another look at this. To be completely honest I am also falling behind on my reading and redoing this was the best way to make my self imposed deadline.
We screwed up with Bernie Madoff. Instead of looking backward, wasting our time with vengeance we should have been looking forward, striving to fix whatever problems existed. That was the argument used against prosecuting the banking executives who brought on the financial meltdown of 2008. If the argument is not BS, nothing is.
According to Glenn Greenwald in his book “With liberty and justice for some : how the law is used to destroy equality and protect the powerful“ that is exactly what we have been doing for the most powerful American criminals. Bernie Madoff is not in prison because he is a thief. Dozens of bank and mortgage company executives are also thieves. They are not in prison, even though they deserve it as much as Madoff does. Madoff was prosecuted because he stole from his fellow elites and not from powerless citizen homeowners.
Greenwald explains in detail the unraveling of the rule of law in the United States. Beginning with Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon up to, and including, President Obama Greenwald details forty years of executive and corporate lawlessness. Interspersed in his story is several historical examples that show it does not need to be this way. Samuel J.Tilden brought down his own political party’s most powerful machine, Tammany Hall, and went on win the 1876 Presidential Election (only to loose the office in a backroom deal). To stop Governor Theodore Roosevelt, reforms he was picked to run as Garfield’s vice president. Progressive Party member Senator Robert La Follette, a former Republican, helped expose the Teapot Dome Scandal.
The final section of the book covers the flip side of a lawless elite, the persecution of the common man. I knew that we have a lot of Americans in prison but I had no idea just how many, not aware of how far we are from the international norm, nor how quickly it became this bad.
The introduction and afterword are the most powerful parts of the book. Here Greenwald looks at what the Founding Fathers had to say about the importance of the Rule of Law and how we have failed them, ourselves, and our descendants. I follow the news, I was aware of most of the incidents Greenwald discusses but, not being a lawyer or intimately familiar with the Anti-Torture Treaty that President Reagan signed into law or, I am ashamed to say, as familiar with the Constitution as I would like, I failed to see the big picture. This book is an eye opener.