Publishers don't release books, or even new editions of books, without giving some thought as to when they should hit the shelves. It shouldn't really be a surprise that the paperback edition of Glenn Greenwald's With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful is being released the week of the Fourth of July. After all, it invokes a key concept of the Declaration of Independence—that all men are equal before the law. Greenwald's point, though, is that this is no longer true in America. And while the contention isn't itself new, he makes a good case for his proposition.
Greenwald focuses on several specific events in making the case. One is a rather detailed look at the revelation of the George W. Bush's domestic warrantless domestic wiretapping program and the eventual action by Congress to provide full retroactive immunity—both civil and criminal—to giant telecommunications companies for their violations of federal law. He also examines the actions of that administration's actions in the "war on terror" and, in a chapter called "Too Big to Jail," the failure—or refusal—of the government to prosecute bank officials and others responsible for the financial crisis beginning in 2008. In so doing, With Liberty and Justice for Some repeats often made criticisms of the current state of affairs, particularly the role of money and lobbyists in government. But one of Greenwald's main points is the coalescence and almost seamlessness of government and private elites.
He often points to the so-called revolving door between politics and private industry. Yet he argues that there is far less separation between the two than the concept might imply. Instead, whether in telecommunications or the health or financial industries, "the U.S. government and industry interests essentially form one gigantic, amalgamated, inseparable entity—with a public division and a private one." And rather than simply make these assertions, Greenwald's examples point to specific instances of this occurring during the last several decades.
Greenwald points to some key phrases that seem to epitomize the situation during that time. One is Richard Nixon's statement several years after his resignation that "When the president does it, that means it is not illegal." There are often subtle echoes of it in most administrations—and entirely unsubtle in the expansive position of the George W. Bush administration on executive power. Another phrase that tends to echo and serve as justification for even egregious activities is that we need to move forward to get past what has occurred, rather than looking back and dwelling on events. As Greenwald points out, though, "given that 'looking backwards' is, by definition, what any investigation entails, it [is] a motto of pure lawlessness."