To hear Rush Limbaugh and the tribunes of the totalitarian right tell it, everything is going swimmingly in Honduras.
Yes, the military invaded the home of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya with guns blazing, kidnapped the country’s elected leader and forced him to leave the country.
Yes, the military then installed an unelected president and a new “interim” cabinet.
But, says Limbaugh, “It really wasn’t a coup. It was the constitution being upheld. It was not a government being overthrown. It was a government being upheld, a government being sustained and getting rid of somebody who wanted to turn into an Ortega, who wanted to turn into a Chavez, who wanted to become a Castro, and these are the people our president of the United States is siding with.”
Reading from the same script, Fox’s Sean Hannity declared it was “mind-numbing” that the Obama administration would side with the world community to condemn the removal of Zelaya by the military and its political allies. No one will debate Hannity knows a good deal about what it takes to numb a mind. But his spin on this issue establishes a new standard for braindead thinking by the totalitarian right that has so besmirched the good name of old-right, anti-interventionist conservatism as it was once practiced by Ohio Senator Robert Taft and Nebraska Congressman Howard Buffett, and as it continues to be espoused by Texas Congressman Ron Paul and the publications such as The American Conservative.
Putting aside concerns that Limbaugh, Hannity and their lesser compatriots appear to be suffering from severe Obama Derangement Syndrome – a condition characterized by bouts of uncontrollable rage and deep depression separated by rambling ruminations on the need to prevent regulation of pharmaceutical products — the argument that there was no coup in Honduras was pretty much put to rest Wednesday.
The country’s new rulers, who removed Zelaya without due process or respect for the procedures outlined by the Honduran Constitution established a sweeping nighttime curfew, during which the following sections of that constitutionare specifically suspended:
ARTICLE 69.- Personal liberty is inviolable and can only be restricted or suspended temporarily through modification of the laws.
ARTICLE 71.- No person can be detained or held incommunicado for more than twenty-four hours, without appearing before a competent authority for trial.
ARTICLE 78.- The freedoms to assemble and meet are guaranteed, as long as they are not contrary to public order and good custom.
ARTICLE 81.- Every person has the right to circulate freely, leave, enter and remain in the national territory.
Honduran politicians and jurists who have aligned with the country’s powerful military – and been well rewarded for doing so — make a point that not all basic freedoms have been suspended all the time.
Fair enough. But there are still some Americans who think that the suspensions of any basic freedoms any of the time is problematic.
In fact, the way that Limbaugh, Hannity and their echo chamber are talking, you’d think that Zelaya was the one assaulting liberty.
The complaint about Zelaya from the people who have taken over the country was that the legitimately elected president of Honduras wanted to hold an advisory referendum on whether to consider altering the constitution to allow elected executives to serve two terms.
In order to prevent the referendum vote, the coup kidnapped an elected president, spirited him out of the country and installed a new unelected president. Then they suspended civil liberties.
Outside of an Orwellian novel, or the mid-day slot on talk radio stations, some basic principles still apply:
Getting elected. Organizing referendums. Proposing constitutional amendments. These are the sorts of things that happen in a country that is experiencing democracy.
Kidnapping the president. Installing an unelected strongman who threatens to arrest his critics on charges of treason. Suspending civil liberties. These are the sorts of things that happen in a country that is experiencing a coup.
****************************************************************John Nichols is the associate editor of The Capital Times. His book, The Genius of Impeachment: The Founders’ Cure for Royalism (The New Press), examines and compares constitutional procedures for removing executives in countries around the world.