If you haven’t already, you absolutely must read this post at TPM. Why? Because in it David Kurtz asserts, rightly, that Attorney General Mukasey’s testimony on the Hill today tells us two very important things, one self-evident, the other revelatory: 1) The DOJ will not investigate the Bush administration’s use of waterboarding and warrantless wiretaps. 2) The rationale for this decision, that the DOJ previously signed off on those two policies, is utterly corrupt. Quoting Kurtz now:

We have now the Attorney General of the United States telling Congress that it’s not against the law for the President to violate the law if his own Department of Justice says it’s not.

It is as brazen a defense of the unitary executive as anything put forward by the Administration in the last seven years, and it comes from an attorney general who was supposed to be not just a more professional, but a more moderate, version of Alberto Gonzales (Thanks to Democrats like Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer for caving on the Mukasey nomination.).

President Bush has now laid down his most aggressive challenge to the very constitutional authority of Congress. It is a naked assertion of executive power. The founders would have called it tyrannical. His cards are now all on the table. This is no bluff.

I’d like to echo one of Kurtz’s points and amplify another that seems implicit in his post. We have a tyrant in the White House. To argue otherwise is foolish. And we should be afraid. President Bush has nothing to lose: he’s comfortable with his 30% approval numbers; he’s a lame duck; he seemingly doesn’t care about his legacy or the GOP’s future; and he’s willing to shred the Constitution, with a smug grin on his face, in order to achieve his goals. This is a perilous time for the nation.

After the SOTU, I suggested that there were just a few moments in American history in which the state of the union could reasonably be described as having been worse than it now is. It turns out that I was being too optimistic. And, to be fair, several Democrats in the Senate must share the blame for this dire state of affairs.

(Update: A commenter, John B., asked an excellent question in the thread below. Beyond voting the right way, writing elected officials, staying on top of the news, and clutching one’s pearls, what can a person who cares about the rule of law actually do to make a difference? The great Katherine, from the great Obsidian Wings, suggests that the answer is: go to this site, run by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Or this site, run by Human Rights Watch. Both organizations have a wealth of information available to the public. And both can use help.)

(Update: Hilzoy does her thing here. And Urbino! puts up an awesome post here.)