It wasn”t enough to use the terrorist attacks as an excuse to infringe on our civil rights. It wasn”t enough to use the attacks as an excuse to push an inegalitarian set of tax cuts through Congress. It wasn”t enough to use the attacks as an excuse to eliminate the judicial process via military tribunals.

None of that was enough for U.S. government officials. Yesterday, members of the House of Representatives used the Sept. 11 attacks as an excuse to pass legislation that gives the president sweeping powers to negotiate trade agreements.

The problem with this program generically named “Fast Track” is that the president sets the terms for foreign trade agreements by giving Congress the option of voting either for or against the given agreement. Congress, under Fast Track, won”t be able to undertake a line-by-line scrutiny of any trade agreement.

Proponents of Fast Track suggest that, with the quick spread of foreign markets, it is unnecessary and costly to rely on Congress to pass trade agreements. Fast Track advocates say that Congressional proceedings take too long and it”s also impossible for all members of Congress to be involved in trade negotiations with foreign leaders.

Unfortunately, the program developed to rectify these issues Fast Track takes away all of the checks and balances set up to ensure that no one person can define the direction of this country. Congress effectively ties their own hands and gives full control over U.S. foreign trade policy to the president when it passes Fast Track legislation.

The House did just that passing Fast Track legislation yesterday by a vote of 215 to 214. The close nature of this vote has prompted Republican leaders to turn this into a patriotic issue.

“This Congress will either support our president who is fighting a courageous war on terrorism and redefining American world leadership, or we will undercut this president at the worst possible time,” said Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert, as quoted in the New York Times

The terrorist attacks did not give George W. Bush or anyone, for that matter a blank check with which to operate. But that”s exactly what he has been trying to get blanket immunity from scrutiny for any of his programs.

Before Sept. 11, the issue of Fast Track legislation was incredibly contentious before Sept. 11, there were criticisms of the program. The current debate over Fast Track isn”t the voice of anti-Americanism, it”s the voice of intelligent dissent.

The U.S. government needs to realize that the foundation of a democracy is the right to disagree and voice that disagreement. Such dissent is not a sign of anti-Americanism if anything, it is patriotism exercised to its fullest extent.

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