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But “enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm,” as James Madison warned in the Federalist Papers.
The power of “locking people away for life” is a fearsome thing that must itself be kept in a strong cage built of law and procedure. There is no guarantee that everyone who comes to wield that power will be well-intentioned, much less courageous in the face of the extreme political pressures that can arise from extreme circumstances.
This is where the issues surrounding MSOP bear a resemblance to the controversy over the federal government’s secretive surveillance regime in the war on terror. That too is awesome power that in the wrong hands could be a tool for despotism.
Mark Dayton is no tyrant. Neither is Barack Obama. Neither was George W. Bush. But America’s founders deliberately designed a government that contains no unchecked discretion that could be readily abused should a would-be tyrant ever actually appear at the helm. We should keep it that way.
D.J. Tice is at Doug.Tice@startribune.com.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.