Third Party & Independents Archives

July 20, 2007

America's Authoritarian Government

In a dictatorship, no one else in government has power to halt the authoritarian who authors and enforces his own laws. George W. Bush is acting the role, and getting away with it, because our judicial system is incapable of responding with speed or efficiency to the Constitutional crises being raised by the President’s incredible expansion of the power of the executive branch.

President Bush is riding and elevating a wave of growing executive power and immunity from the Congress and Courts, created by his predecessors. While Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton were key to this growing executive power threat to our Constitutional government, it is with the G.W. Bush's administration that the crisis is reaching a defining moment in American history.

It is the little things that expose an authoritarian's defiance of law. For Nixon, it was the tapes. For Reagan, it was leaks of Iran-Contra exchanges. For Clinton it was a lie about his personal life. For G.W. Bush, it was the berating of U.S. attorneys after they were fired. If the Bush administration had fired these attorney's and praised them for their service, this Constitutional crisis over their firings would never have occurred. But, his administration, in its arrogance, could not resist whipping those attorneys after they were gone for not living up to the White House's expectation of loyalty to the authoritarian.

Ms. Sara Taylor, political director for the White House, under partial immunity, testified before Congress regarding the firings. She volunteered her understanding of the oath of office. She said she took an oath to the President. Below is the excerpt from the transcript:

Leahy: And then you said, I took an oath to the President, and I take that oath very seriously. Did you mean, perhaps, you took an oath to the Constitution?

Taylor: Uh, I, uh, yes, you're correct, I took an oath to the Constitution. Uh, but, what--

Leahy: Did you take a second oath to the President?

Taylor: I did not. I--

Leahy: So the answer was incorrect.

Taylor: The answer was incorrect. What I should have said is that, I took an oath, I took that oath seriously. And I believe that taking that oath means that I need to respect, and do respect, my service to the President.

With a moment of bewilderment and confusion, she then recognized with embarrassment the error of her loyalty, and agreed with the Committee Chair Leahy that her oath was to protect and defend the Constitution (our laws), not the person sitting in the oval office. She apologized for her words several times. It's the little things that give people away: the things they didn't think important enough to rehearse.

As the head of his political party, the president wears two hats, one political, the other as employee of that nation. The ugly smell surrounding the firings emanated not from the firings themselves, but, from the circumstances surrounding each of the individuals fired. The majority of them appeared to be failing to live up to political expectations of using their power as U.S. Attorneys to disadvantage Democrats in the 2006 elections, or for having participated in investigation or prosecution of Republicans.

If these attorneys used their office to disadvantage Democrats prior to an election or, refused to investigate or prosecute Republicans because of elections nearing (Duke Cunningham), it would have been a violation of our laws. The fired attorneys did not violate our laws in this manner, and in the absence of other defensible reasons for their firing, the implication is they were fired for not using their power to influence elections or promote political agendas. There is no other common factor tying this particular group together for firing. All other explanations accusations as to why they, as a group were fired, have proven to be false.

But, the Constitutional crisis now being wrought has to do with Executive Authority exempting the President and his actions from review or oversight by the other branches of government, especially the Congress. Congress has issued subpoena's to White House personnel to investigate the motives for the firings. The Bush Administration is claiming its personnel are immune from Congressional oversight or investigation under a concept known as Executive Privilege.

Executive Privilege was designed to protect the President's capacity to lead the nation in times of war, insurrection, national crisis, or similar emergency threatening the United States. There has been a steady broadening of that power by presidents arguably from Tyler, Polk, and Hayes' terms in office.

With such a steady broadening of executive power, over the centuries, it was inevitable that America should arrive where it is with Pres. G.W. Bush, wherein the office of President now exercises the power of dictator and authoritarian, rather than a representative of the people, faithful and dutiful to the Constitution and the rule of law. President Bush is now making his own laws through signing statements, then hiding those laws and their enforcement under Executive Privilege and Authority.

Our judicial system is now so clogged, that Pres. Bush's administration is free from worry of having his efforts hampered. Since, by the time these Constitutional issues make their way through the courts and are resolved by the Supreme Court, he will no longer be in office. The next president is not about to subject themselves to prosecution after leaving office by instructing the Department of Justice to pursue prosecution of the Bush Administration after he leaves office. We are thus, institutionalizing an authoritarian government cloaked in the guise of a democratic republic for marketing purposes only.

Most dictatorships begin with a benign dictator, or at least the appearance of one. But that kind of power for a person to author their own laws and policies according to their own needs, desires, and wants, will inevitably be transferred to a person who is anything but benign in their exercise of that power. The history of the Roman Empire outlines this process many times in its history, as do South American regimes over the last century.

One of the lynch pins to any president establishing and protecting this authoritarian power is control of the Justice Department. If the Justice Department becomes the pawn of the White House to do its bidding, as is being investigated now by Congress, the rule of law is traded in for the rule of the man or woman sitting in the White House and those closest to him / her in the Administration.

When the Congress loses its oversight and investigatory authority, and its ability to instruct the Justice Department to investigate breaches of Constitutional or statutory law, by a declaration of the President that Executive Authority trumps Congress' authority, Constitutional balance and checks are lost. The Congress and people they represent then no longer have power over government. The president is free to cloak their authoritarian actions in secrecy and Executive Authority without fear of legal reprisal.

From the warrantless wiretaps, breaches of the Geneva Conventions in use of torture and rendition, to the commutation of 'Scooter' Libby's sentence, to the now hiding of evidence under Executive Authority, the Bush Administration has time and again demonstrated its refusal to be bound by the Constitution, the law, or the other branches of government. But, it is this little thing, the firing of 8 U.S. Attorneys and then berating their competence falsely, after the fact to cover up the political motives behind the firings, that will bring this President's legacy down, if not the President himself before expiration of his term.

The battle between the Congress and the White House being fought today, is every bit as crucial to our Constitutional system as Watergate was, and in some ways more so. If the White House succeeds in protecting both Executive Authority and submission of the Justice Department to the White House's political directions instead of the U.S. Constitution, for all intents and purposes, Sara Taylor's pledge to protect and defend the President may as well become the new oath of office for all persons in government.

Such an oath was taken by all those who served in Saddam Hussein's government. An oath to the office of Hussein, not the nation of Iraq. It was very telling that Sara Taylor referred to her oath as to the president, instead of the Constitution. Very telling, indeed. Only in authoritarian governments do government servants swear an oath to the authoritarian. The laws after all, are whatever the authoritarian says they are.

Posted by David R. Remer at July 20, 2007 06:51 PM
Comments
Comment #226969

David,

We have been told repeatedly that this President wasn’t “detail oriented”, and there is plentiful evidence that bears out this claim.

It is ironic, and perhaps darkly humorous that his lack of attention to details, and lack of interest in the bigger picture may be what finally brings him down.

Posted by: Rocky at July 20, 2007 07:19 PM
Comment #226975

I now reject the suggestion that the president is stupid. I think the reason he appears dim-witted on TV is because it’s so hard to keep a story strait when you’re lying. It doesn’t take an intelligent person to be clever.

The real genius behing George Bush lies in his ulterior motives. Exactly what those motives are will probably not be discovered until all the guilty individuals are dead and gone! I still believe he and his cohorts at least knew something about 9/11, if not had an active role. It seems that once they realized how much they could get away with during and after 9/11, they went on a spree.

Posted by: wtc7 at July 20, 2007 08:12 PM
Comment #226976

David,

Certainly the first thing that comes to mind is Bush saying that a dictatorship would be much easier. I’ve actually thought recently that he left part of that statement hanging in the wind: that would be the words, “just wait and see”.

Our “decider” has made a lot of decisions that trouble me. His discomfort and disdain for the congress since he lost the “rubber stamp” is so obvious that it’s sickening.

The sad thing is that this began years ago. It’s not always been the Republican party that’s embraced the idea of full control. While I’m perfectly comfortable saying that I began my adult life as a Kennedy Democrat I must say that “Camelot” was somewhat responsible for the kind of “Imperial” presidency we’re witness to today.

I’m positive that’s why we also love electing actors to high office. As an electorate we’re nearly all a bunch of “rubes”. It doesn’t help that history is manipulated to hide many of the political or personal foopah’s of those such as the beloved Reagan or JFK!

We have created our own aristocracy!

Look at the supposed “top tier” of both Republican and Democratic candidates.

Posted by: KansasDem at July 20, 2007 08:26 PM
Comment #226977

wtc7,

“I now reject the suggestion that the president is stupid.”

Where exactly did David or I sat Mr. Bush was stupid, though I have to say that he has the charisma of a sock.
He appears dimwitted on TV because he doesn’t think well on his feet (perhaps due to too much alcohol?), and requires “handling” before a speech.
Being President doesn’t require a brain surgeon, merely being a good manager will suffice.

Posted by: Rocky at July 20, 2007 08:27 PM
Comment #226978

Rocky, I wasn’t argueing with either of you, just speaking generally in regard to the popular perception that the president is stupid.

Posted by: wtc7 at July 20, 2007 08:31 PM
Comment #226979

Actually, now that I think of it, I suppose your first post reminded me of that perception, since you alluded to it by referring to Bush’s “lack of interest in the bigger picture”.

Posted by: wtc7 at July 20, 2007 08:37 PM
Comment #226980

Just a thought: if Bush really were “stupid” wouldn’t that mean that at least half of American’s are stupid?

Bush connected with the electorate. I don’t understand how, but he did! That’s the scary part.

Less than 5% fall into his “have and have more” criteria, maybe 30% go along because of the “born again” image and honestly I’m just amazed that this guy ever got to be president.

I’m thinking this is little more than voting someone off the island to far too many Americans. We are “collectively” morons!

Posted by: KansasDem at July 20, 2007 08:51 PM
Comment #226981

Kansas Dem, there should be an overwhelming response from the American public and the Congress to halt this conversion of our government from a democratic republic to an authoritarian regime by one person. There should be.

But, there isn’t a majority of voters, nor Congress, crying out for restoration. If ever there was a more telling state of the union statement, a more prophetic view of what is to come, I have not heard it in my lifetime. All that is required for America to lose its Constitutional rule of law, is for good people to remain silent.

Saving our democratic republic will require heart, courage, and great effort, starting with a letter, email, or phone call to our representatives demanding correction in exchange for our vote for them or their party, in Nov. 2008. That is how our democratic republic was intended to work. Use it, or lose it. It is no more complicated than this.

And it has little to do with stupidity or smarts. I think it has to do with interest and motivation. Where there is power, there will be folks abusing it. It is up the rest of us to take an interest in abuse of power, and stand up to demand that it stops. Lack of caring and motivation by the people have brought down more civilizations through corruption, than wars, famine, or natural disaster.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 20, 2007 09:16 PM
Comment #226988

The US is sleeping walking into fascism. Democracy is dead in the land of the free and home of the brave. As my fellow countryman Edmund Burke, said; all that is necessary for evil to prevail, is for good men to do nothing, as alluded to by David above. Alas, there are now too few patriots in the US, and the only hope is that Ron Paul can wrench the White House back. But I fear for his safety if he even looks like taking Washington. How the mighty US has fallen. Sieg Heil. And don’t just blame Bush. He’s just the front man for Cheney and all that he represents.

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at July 20, 2007 09:37 PM
Comment #226989

Wash. Post writes the White House states Congress may not pursue contempt charges aimed at White House personnel who refused to testify, as the Justice Dep’t. will not follow through on them. This is precisely what is discussed in this article above.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 20, 2007 09:38 PM
Comment #226990

David et al

It is funny how “muzzled” all these Bush opponents are. It is hard to read or watch much of anything else, yet they are muzzled. Sure nobody dares criticize Bush. They are all afraid to say anything.

All USG employees swear alligience to the Constitution and promise to defend it against all enemies foreign and domestic.

Posted by: Jack at July 20, 2007 09:43 PM
Comment #226992

Jack, odd though isn’t it, that Sara Taylor would forget such a solemn oath’s words, and with confidence testify before Congress that her oath was to the President. And after having her error pointed out, she still interpreted that oath as “And I believe that taking that oath means that I need to respect, and do respect, my service to the President.”

It is apparent that loyalty to Bush is vastly more important than that forgettable oath to laws of the land. Is it any wonder then, that this Administration has found itself so many, many times outside the laws of our land and intent of our founding fathers?

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 20, 2007 09:53 PM
Comment #226996

“It is hard to read or watch much of anything else, yet they are muzzled. Sure nobody dares criticize Bush.”

Jack,

Every bit of criticism is met with hubris, and no one has been able to overcome that. 9-11 was a real tipping point. We’d teetered on the edge of ultimate executive power ever since FDR.

While I agree with what FDR did for the well being of America we also began a death-spiral towards an “all powerful” executive branch.

IMO both Truman and Ike backed off of that notion, not because they had to but because they chose to. Since then the only President’s that have even come close to “sharing power” have been Carter and Clinton. GHW comes in close, but otherwise Reagan and Bush II have shoved increased taxation of the middle class down our throats and most of us are too stupid to see it.

A large part of that is redirecting the withholding for our Social Security to whatever they decide is a priority. That was (and is) the slickest shift of taxation onto the middle class ever devised. Where is that trust fund? In a safe in Iraq?

Still, Bush has the balls to say what he said today: “It is time to rise above partisanship, stand behind our troops in the field, and give them everything they need to succeed,”

Yeah, OK bucko what’s been holding up the MRAPS for over 4.5 years? Quite honestly, if I met Bush face to face I’d “bitch slap” the mother!

Why are our troops still waiting for these MRAPS?

I for sure thought it was a done deal with the unanimous passage of an amendment introduced by Joe Biden and Kit Bond a couple months ago, but somehow it’s still tied in knots.

The CinC could untie those knots instead of just talking crap!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’ve used so much electronic ink bitchin’ at my Rep: Jerry Moran and both of my Senators: Pat Roberts and Brownback that I never even receive a response anymore. Hells bells, the hometown newspaper is rejecting 90% of my “letters to the editor”.

Make me happy……….get the MRAPS on a fast track! They’ll save American lives!

Posted by: KansasDem at July 20, 2007 10:43 PM
Comment #226999

Bottom line: OUR TROOPS NEED AND DESERVE THESE MRAPS! Even if we need to rely on foreign manufacturers.

Posted by: KansasDem at July 20, 2007 10:57 PM
Comment #227000

Because some people leave the reality of war to others out of view, and gather the glory near.

I think we need to fight back with every inch of strength we got. This is the thing I’ve feared since 9/11. The best we can do is fight. Even if we can’t immediately resolve these issues, can’t bitchslap the president with these restrictions, we can make sure we strangle this monster being born in the oval offices before it’s strong enough to choke the life out of us instead.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at July 20, 2007 10:58 PM
Comment #227001

Stephen D.

I fear we’re too late.

Bush and Cheney seem to act with impunity. At every turn of the screw they seem to come out stronger.

I honestly believe impeachment is the only answer even though I believe it will fail. That will be the only thing that shows we were not complicate in their continued violations of law and the ongoing violation of our own constitution.

Otherwise every citizen of the US may find themselves in the same situation most Germans found themselves in after WWII.

OBL is a BAD guy!

AQ is equivalent to our KKK of the 30’s only with an international flavor.

The way we’re dealing with it is just wrong! We’re destined to fail until we recognize the threat for what it really is and that AQ cells can and will develop anywhere and everywhere.

Posted by: KansasDem at July 21, 2007 12:00 AM
Comment #227008

Stephen, well said. We do indeed need to fight back for Constitution, our democratic republic, and the idea of the office of president as a Servant of the Nation and People, not an office of power for individuals to exploit according to their own designs.

It appears at this time, the U.S. will have a Democratic President in 2008. Which candidates do you believe, if any, would voluntarily yield back the powers which previous presidents have garnered to such a dangerous point?

That is of course, one of the most important decisions American voters have to make in 2008.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 21, 2007 02:56 AM
Comment #227015

NY Times this morning reports that the US Appeals Court has ordered the Bush Administration to turn over virtually all information regarding detainees in Guantanamo who are fighting their imprisonment without trial, to their attorneys and the Court.

It is a stinging blow to the Bush Administration and Gonazalez’ Justice Department which sought to protect the President’s carte blanche authority to detain persons indefinitely without trial or court review. It took several years to get to this point. As this WB article indicated, our courts move too slow and inefficiently to halt authoritarian actions in a timely manner.

It will likely be years before the courts rule on the current battle between Congress and the White House regarding the U.S. Attorney firings subpeonas issued by Congress. Long after the President has left office and has sympathetic immunity by the new President.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 21, 2007 07:11 AM
Comment #227016

You right on the bulls eye David. I agree with virtually all that has been said on this subject, but in reality nothing is going to be done about it right now. The President will probably serve the rest of his term and go down in history as one of the worst people to hold the office of the Presidency.
Mr. Remer actually has the right approach guys. They’re getting their laughs in right now, but come election time VOID the pompus asses. ALL OF THEM!

Posted by: Ken at July 21, 2007 07:24 AM
Comment #227033

David, great article. I agree 100%. You wrote:

“Wash. Post writes the White House states Congress may not pursue contempt charges aimed at White House personnel who refused to testify, as the Justice Dep’t. will not follow through on them.”

Basically what he’s saying is that with him in charge, there is no longer any such thing as a Justice Dept. The president of the United States is now officially King, or alternately, as this link claims:
White House Declares Bush Emperor

Here’s the most relevant bits:

So an anonymous “senior official” whose view reflects “a consensus” (i.e., this is probably an “official” leak instead of an “unofficial” leak) that the White House can do as it pleases. They are basing this not on a Supreme Court decision — or even on any legal judicial precedent at all — merely on what some Reagan-era lawyer at the Department of Justice thought sounded good back in the ’80s, which (by the way) was never resolved by a judge. “It has long been understood” (by them) that they are right, and therefore everyone else is powerless to argue.

There’s only one problem with this rosy legal scenario: They’re wrong. Nixon found that out a long time ago, which is why his tapes are public property now — freely available to any who want to listen to him use racial slurs and curse like a sailor. And that is backed up by a Supreme Court decision.

This isn’t just my opinion. Again, from the article:

Mark J. Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University who has written a book on executive-privilege issues, called the administration’s stance “astonishing.”

“That’s a breathtakingly broad view of the president’s role in this system of separation of powers,” Rozell said. “What this statement is saying is the president’s claim of executive privilege trumps all.”

[Rozell] said the administration’s stance “is almost Nixonian in its scope and breadth of interpreting its power. Congress has no recourse at all, in the president’s view…. It’s allowing the executive to define the scope and limits of its own powers.”

“Almost Nixonian?” I’d say this definitely qualifies.

In short, the White House is forcing a Constitutional crisis. “You can’t convict anyone from the Executive Branch of contempt, because we control the Justice Department — nyah nyah nyah!” is such a blatant challenge to the Democrats in Congress that they need to act, and act swiftly.

I earlier called for reconsideration of the independent counsel law. This no longer appears sufficient, or decisive enough to meet Bush’s challenge. But the Post article actually offers a way out of the mess, from history:

Both chambers [of Congress] also have an “inherent contempt” power, allowing either body to hold its own trials and even jail those found in defiance of Congress. Although widely used during the 19th century, the power has not been invoked since 1934 and Democratic lawmakers have not displayed an appetite for reviving the practice.

This is obviously the way to go. Since Bush has casually tossed down the gauntlet, take him at his word. Since they’re saying it would be a hopeless waste of time to refer contempt proceedings to the Department of Justice, fine. Just skip all those steps, and hold trials in the House and Senate for anyone that does not obey a subpoena. Try them, convict them, and chuck them in jail.

Of course, under Bush’s “Libby Doctrine,” they could all expect pardons. This would be galling for Congress, but in the end Congress would have to accept it. So force Bush to publicly pardon people over and over and over again. Let the public know that Bush doesn’t care if the people who work for him break the law.

Another way to play it would be to refer the matter to the U.S. Attorney, and if they refused to do anything with it, impeach said U.S. Attorney. Then impeach Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for allowing it to happen.

Because the only thing the presidential pardon power cannot do is to reverse an impeachment.

Whatever strategy the Democrats decide on, they need to start it with a vengeance right now. Because the White House has now publicly shown that the gloves are off. If Congress does not act, they will be ceding an enormous amount of power to the Executive Branch, which will set a critical precedent for the future of the American government. Such a naked grab for power must be resisted, both quickly and forcefully.


It has never been more crystal clear that we need to Impeach this entire administration than now. There really is no longer ANY EXCUSE to keep “impeachment off the table” — even if it means they can’t actually make these impeachments a reality (due to the lock-step, totally sheep-like behavior of the GOP members of Congress). An attempt must be made, if only to draw our citizens attention to their outrageous and blatant violations of the rule of law.
If Bush is allowed to get away with all of the things he’s been doing, including this bullshit, then all of our presidents from here on out are automatically the King for four, to eight years.
NO PRESIDENT/ADMINISTRATION, Right, Left, or Center, SHOULD HAVE THE POWER TO DO WHAT THEY HAVE BEEN DOING, EVER AGAIN. And for this reason, Impeachments MUST go forward.
In the linked quotes I put up here it said that the “White House is forcing a Constitutional crisis”, but that isn’t really accurate, is it? The majority of us fully understand that with the many violations we’ve seen from this administration, we’ve been having very serious Constitutional crises for quite some time.

Democrats and Republicans in Congress must stop being spineless/blindly loyal in their partisanship, and act NOW. Because if they don’t act, We the People are going to lose every last bit of our freedom, and Congress is going to lose (perhaps permanently) all of their Constitutionally-given powers, on the whims of America’s present and future Monarch(s).

No more checks and balances = No more Democratic Republic.

Posted by: Adrienne at July 21, 2007 02:28 PM
Comment #227037

Agreed. And if the Dems (with the help of some genuinely patriotic Republicans) don’t push for impeachment of Bush and Cheney, then they are complicit in the executive branch’s abuse of power. Congress has the Constitutional power, but it remains to be seen whether it can set aside political expediency in order to do right by our country and our system of government.

We should all be writing our Congressmen demanding that it find the guts to do what needs to be done.

Posted by: Gerrold at July 21, 2007 04:21 PM
Comment #227038

Adrienne, that is the crux of the matter. The likelihood that whomever is the next president, will not cede power garnered by the Bush administration is historically very, very great. And that can spell the undermining of our nation in many more ways than just checks and balances. The very legal battles that will ensue for decades, will carry an opportunity cost of not attending other major needs of the nation, for example.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 21, 2007 04:30 PM
Comment #227039

Ken, one has to ask, with poll numbers this low for the White House and Congress, if the people will not exercise their authority at the polls on this matter in 2008, will they ever exercise it? And if not, then, our democratic republic and constitutional rule of law system experiment initiated by the Colonialists, has truly failed. And democracy is not the way for the people’s of the world. Americans will have proved that.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 21, 2007 04:34 PM
Comment #227043

Kansas Dem, you touched upon a key failure of our system in these modern times. The manner in which our elections have become a popularity contest as opposed to a filtering and selection process to insure the most capable person fills the office.

Popularity contests, managed by public relations and marketing and advertising firms, (which is what most of campaign dollars are spent on), are really just image creation, much like taking a lump of material and molding it into an appealing appearance, even if the material is dung. This process in no way assures competence will accompany the winning candidate into office.

Which begs the question, do the American voters have the ability to assess competence for public office? For a host of reasons, I think the answer is usually no.

The political parties once served that purpose to screen, filter, and select the most capable candidates for the office sought. But, the political parties have placed image above substance, sale ability above decision ability, and speaking skills far above thinking skills. And overall, they have placed winning above all other considerations including candidate competence, and fitness for the challenges of their office.

The political parties are now to a large extent, the decision makers, the problem assessors, and the solution makers behind the candidate’s words. And political parties loyalty lies not with the welfare of the nation or its future, but, with control of power, and the incredible sums of money that have come to be associated with winning and keeping that control intact. This is precisely why the Republicans could not hold on to their Contract with America after acquiring power. The contract almost immediately took a back seat to acquiring more power, and practicality dictated contradicting the Contract for America in order to succor those needed to win more power.

Hence, government grew, instead of shrinking. National debt grew, instead of holding or shrinking, and accountability was thrown overboard in lieu of the need to hide the actions used to acquire more power and favor. The political parties are no longer the friend of the American voter. The political parties prefer voters remain preoccupied, uninquisitive, uninformed and blindly loyal.

The good news is, millions more Americans leave the major political parties with each passing election to become interested, inquisitive, informed, and adamantly Independent in deciding how they will vote.

The political parties fooled all the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but, they have failed to fool all the people all of the time as evidenced by dramatic rise of the Independent voter. Independent voters lack, and may never have a consensus for selecting candidates, but, they are achieving with time and organization a consensus about what is wrong with our government and political system. And that development poses both an enormous risk to the Democratic and Republican parties, as well as the greatest hope, that future elections will become about competence and ability, leaving party loyalty lying in the muck which these parties have created.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 21, 2007 05:57 PM
Comment #227044

I do not see it as a “crisis” or as the development of an authoritarian government. Not yet. Although the steps being taken by the Bush administration certainly lead in that direction, given enough time; but more likely, this bunch will run out the clock and slink away, leaving a trail of slime and loose dollar bills.

I see this as an attempt by the Bush administration to make the Executive Branch more powerful in relation to the Legislative Branch in order to make the branches co-equal. The problem is, almost no one outside the Executive Branch feels that Branch is not powerful enough. If anything, most people, regrardless of political affilitation, would agree the Executive Branch is more than powerful enough already.

A major part of the moves made by the Bush administration, especially the blatant rejection of congressional oversight, are simply efforts to run out the clock, and conceal criminal wrongdoing. The politicization of DOJ will probably allow them to get away with it. In particular, the invocation of executive privilege regarding the Tillman case is a slap in the face.

Bush and the Neocons will be gone soon. They will be remember by almost all of us with the deepest contempt. The next administration, whether Republican or Democrat, will find itself saddled with a fearful American populace, a protracted war in Iraq with no good outcome likely, enormous budgetary deficits, a national debt so large it is difficult to comprehend, a loss of respect among our allies, a broken Department of Justice, a concept of executive privilege which must be denied by the Judicial Branch, if that is even possible anymore, and a legacy of obstruction with regard to Global Warming.

Deep contempt? That is too kind. Worst president ever.

Posted by: phx8 at July 21, 2007 07:01 PM
Comment #227045

KansasDem-
Never give up. Although I’ve been quite open about my view that Iraq is a lost cause militarily, America will never be a lost cause for Americans unless we let it be. We just have to make it so damned difficult for these people to do this kind of thing, put them through so much trouble that everybody who’s got any political sense blanches at the thought of taking the Bush Adminstration’s actions as precedent.

There’s no way to get absolute security against the abuse of power. The key is, to raise the difficulty of people doing this stuff to the point where the behavior becomes the province of the reckless, who become examples for others to dread.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at July 21, 2007 07:09 PM
Comment #227046

Stephen, I agree with you saying. However, as I read it, another voice in my head was thinking:

“With almost 1/3 of Americans supporting Bush’s actions and presidency, it only takes a dubious 20 more percent on any given issue, to further the expansion of executive power. There are many issues like the line item veto, in which that Bush supporter group, with an additional 19 or 20% in favor of deficit control, would dramatically expand executive power, even beyond what Bush’s and his predecessors have created. What is to prevent this kind of splintered politics from continuing the expansion of executive power?”

Bush’s tactics were remarkably effective. Divide public opinion, divide Congressional opinion, divide the Supreme Court with appointments, and then exercise carte blanche on policy of his own choosing, defying the divided electorate and government to find consensus to stop him.

His tactics, I am sure, are not lost upon most of those who are now seeking to replace him, and are definitely not lost upon the political advisers and consultants who will become the next President’s consulting team. As long as the primary agenda is political and not Constitutional governance and rule of law, I fail to see how any substantial reversals to Bush’s expansion of executive authority are forthcoming, without a devastating anti-incumbent backlash at the polls.

The Democrats and Republicans in Congress today know full well what has happened, and most would agree it is not healthy for the nation. Yet, political considerations appear to be overriding their conscience regarding good governance. I can’t seem find any hope in politicians policing themselves for better governance. I can only find hope in the growing Independent voters who have left party politics and party loyalty behind, in order to protect their freedom to vote against politicians whose service in government witnessed a worsening of governance.

All incumbents in the Current Congress from before the 2006 elections, failed to halt this dangerous path taken by the Bush administration. Whether it was lack of persuasiveness, lack of competence, lack of focus, lack of ability, or lack of concern, these incumbents failed to halt the Bush Administration’s damaging actions. They failed their check and balance role, fundamentally demanded by our Constitution. I fail to see how voters can justify or rationalize voting these failed politicians back in for more of the same incompetence and failure in fulfilling their Constitutional role and obligation.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 21, 2007 07:47 PM
Comment #227051

phx8, normally you and I seem in complete agreement, but not this time. You wrote:

“I do not see it as a “crisis” or as the development of an authoritarian government. Not yet.”

I do. In fact, from the moment the Downing Street Memos surfaced I thought impeachment became necessary. Then we learned that they had rendered the Geneva Conventions “quaint”, in order to torture captured prisoners. Then they ignored FISA and wiretapped American citizens. By the time they killed Habeas Corpus, I felt that impeachment had become strictly mandatory. And now this crap.
It is not one, but FIVE separate instances of law breaking and Constitution shredding. Every one of them present a Constitutional crisis — issues that need to be addressed.
What’s more, many Constitutional scholars who come from both sides of the political aisle agree that this is the case, and that Bush should be impeached.

“Although the steps being taken by the Bush administration certainly lead in that direction, given enough time; but more likely, this bunch will run out the clock and slink away, leaving a trail of slime and loose dollar bills.”

You know what else these things will leave behind? A Precedent of the Extreme Abuse of Presidential Powers.
Nixon received a pardon. ENORMOUS mistake. No lessons were learned as a result. This has lead to this administration and their multiple, outrageous abuses of power.
(Reagan and Clinton overstepped and abused their presidential power, too. Reagan got clean away with everything he did, while Clinton was impeached in the House — but for the wrong reason.)

David:
“Bush’s tactics were remarkably effective. Divide public opinion, divide Congressional opinion, divide the Supreme Court with appointments,”

Yes, the Supreme Court and the circuit courts as well. It’s been a bloodless, yet blatantly obvious coup.

“and then exercise carte blanche on policy of his own choosing, defying the divided electorate and government to find consensus to stop him.”

The public is way ahead on this. We won’t see impeachment unless we keep DEMANDING impeachment — very loudly.

“His tactics, I am sure, are not lost upon most of those who are now seeking to replace him, and are definitely not lost upon the political advisers and consultants who will become the next President’s consulting team.”

Exactly. No politician ever gives up an ounce of power once they think a precedent has been set for them to abuse their power at will. Power must be wrenched away from them by We the People, so that those precedents can be invalidated. And impeachment is precisely the means our founders gave us to do that.

“As long as the primary agenda is political and not Constitutional governance and rule of law, I fail to see how any substantial reversals to Bush’s expansion of executive authority are forthcoming, without a devastating anti-incumbent backlash at the polls.”

When Watergate happened, we still had statesmen who were willing to put the good of the nation ahead of their party. Now, we have NO statesmen. Even Feingold, someone you all know I respect highly has just come out and said “But with so many important issues facing this country and so much work to be done…” they can’t impeach.
Who does he think he’s kidding? Not only is he wrong, but that’s a load of horsesh*t. There isn’t ONE thing that isn’t more important than this very issue, right here and right now. It didn’t take that long to bring the articles of impeachment with Nixon, and it doesn’t have to now. Then, with the impeachments (or possibly their resignations), out of the way, all those other problems he mentions might actually get dealt with — and without an automatic veto looming at the end of them.

“The Democrats and Republicans in Congress today know full well what has happened, and most would agree it is not healthy for the nation. Yet, political considerations appear to be overriding their conscience regarding good governance. I can’t seem find any hope in politicians policing themselves for better governance.”

You’re right. It’s all politics and all petty partisanship, not what is best for our country, our Constitution and our people in the long run. They - all of them — seem to have completely forgotten what their true function is. And for this reason, I have grown increasingly disgusted and infuriated with all of them. Well, except for Kucinich — the only one among the Democrats with the spine to call things as he sees them. Yet, this is a guy who doesn’t stand a snowman’s chance in hell of getting himself elected.

[Sigh] I’m ranting. I’ll stop now.

Posted by: Adrienne at July 21, 2007 09:14 PM
Comment #227055

Adrienne, Dennis Kucinich has a lot of the right ideas about good governance. He lacks many things however to inspire confidence in the American people to call the right shots. His position on Iraq is not endorsed by the majority of Americans, who distrust whiplash policy, going from one extreme to the opposite.

Ironically, it is his lack of political saavy with mass audiences that makes him heads above the rest of the candidates. Politics does not define his platform, what he believes would be good governance, does. Ergo, as you say, he doesn’t have a prayer of being elected.

This conundrum is one I experience personally about Barack Obama. He is very politically adept at moving mass audiences and avoiding commentary, policies, or directions that could raise skepticism. Precisely because of this, I can’t get comfortable with his policy directions, because, I can’t yet figure out clearly what they are.

On the other side, Ron Paul is Republican’s Dennis Kucinich. And Thompson is their Barack Obama. The game of politics by the parties and the vast sums spent to costume and make-up the campaign rhetoric by PR firms and Marketing consultants, has made casting an intelligent and responsible vote a good deal of effort for Americans. But, then, some of our founding fathers warned that keeping this form of government intact and viable would not be easy or effortless.

We survived keeping it intact with the end of the Civil War and the 1960’s cultural/technological revolution. But, as of the 1960’s, we began losing the viability of our constitutional democratic republic. It has been a continuous descent from then to this morass of power plays we now find ourselves witnessing as you accurately point out.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 21, 2007 11:25 PM
Comment #227057

David, I think you’re onto something here insofar as there has been, over time, an expansion of government authority over our lives in general. This is a troubling trend that has developed in the courts, Congress, and several administrations over many generations now. That’s easy to agree with.

As far as the struggles between the three coequal branches of government go, however, the Executive branch is isn’t necessarily becoming more “authoritarian” than Congress or the courts, who themselves show a strong tendency of late to overreach their authority.

One thing is for sure, however: the concept of checks and balances does not mean that in every dispute between the executive branch and congress, congress is supposed to come out on top in every case. If Congress is there to check the President’s power, the President is also there to check Congress’s power.

Congress has NO right whatsoever, on its own, to subpoena White House officials over those attorney firings. Unlike Watergate or the Lewinsky scandal, there is no ongoing investigation being conducted here by the third branch of government—the judiciary. If there were, it might be a different story. As things stand now, this is nothing but politics.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that the “authoritarians” here are in Congress, and it is Congress who should be accused of violating the proper Constitutional separation of powers and checks and balances.

They’re not only stepping on the Administration’s toes, they’re stepping on the toes of the Judiciary in attempting to set up their own independent courts of law in which they claim the right to subpoena and put people on trial on the basis of political disagreements instead of due process.

As far as what Sara Taylor said, you’re making a big deal out of nothing. The President is a Constitutional officer, so when you’re an employee of the President there’s no contradiction at all between serving both the Constitution and the President—as long as you’re not breaking any laws. Did Sara Taylor break any laws? I’ve heard nothing to indicate anything of the kind.

From the warrantless wiretaps, breaches of the Geneva Conventions in use of torture and rendition, to the commutation of ‘Scooter’ Libby’s sentence, to the now hiding of evidence under Executive Authority, the Bush Administration has time and again demonstrated its refusal to be bound by the Constitution, the law, or the other branches of government.

This is nonsense.

A number of things you mention there were authorized by BOTH Congress and the Courts—hence, they were agreed on by ALL THREE BRANCHES of government. You might not agree with them (that’s your right), but it’s ridiculous to say that they’re all just acts of the Executive branch.

The commutation of Libby’s sentence was CLEARLY well within Bush’s rights, and warrantless wiretaps of terror suspects is a program that was actually suspended by the administration even though the Supreme Court threw out challenges to it.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at July 22, 2007 12:12 AM
Comment #227060

This is really the Pradox of our time. I recall as a boy growing up in the 60’s, politicians had this desire to impose their will on everyone, whether they liked it or not. However we have a self correcting system.
Let me be clear on this. I don’t condone or encourage violence in any way, but it seems we are doomed to repeat past mistakes. As stated earlier, people in office got out of hand to say the least, and if you grew up in the 60’s as I did or were an adult for that matter you know what happened.
Here we go again folks! For what it’s worth I don’t think they’ll ever learn.

Posted by: Ken at July 22, 2007 12:31 AM
Comment #227063

Loyal Opp, WRONG! It is about the violation of our current laws that prohibit the use of executive power to threaten or fire members of the Justice Department for refusing to yield to political directives, in deference to their sworn oath to the Constitution and the laws of this land.

Our laws do not permit the use of government power to effect political ends that would impede the enforcement and observance of our laws. The intimidation factor alone from the firings and false claims of incompetence upon other members of our Justice Department may breach our laws against coercion for political gain of other government officials, which these U.S. Attorneys were.

You don’t have to see this if you choose not to. But, it doesn’t change the reality of either our laws, or the actions taken by this administration.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 22, 2007 12:47 AM
Comment #227064

David:

I have as you might imagine a different take than you and most here. I don’t see a constitutional crisis at all. I see the constitution working fine under a security crisis.

We have some very new information that we have never faced before. Basically, when we saw those planes fly into the twin towers we all knew that it is only a matter of time before they connect a WMD to one of those planes. We are sitting on a time bomb.

I truly believe you and I will see hundred of thousands of casualties in one terrorist strike. The same technology that is providing the globalization and “The Flat Earth”, will one day provide an opportunity for innocent death of unimaginable proportions.

The problem is that this knowledge was demonstrated in an instant. The Bush administration has bent (broken) constitution mandates in order to protect us in the best ways they know how. (Whether they are doing a good job on this is not this threads argument).

Of course civil liberties will need to be fought in light of this new data. What do civil liberties mean in an era of WMD in the hands of terrorists. (An airliner is a WMD by the way).

We are in the middle of a great debate, and bring it on. Fight hard!! We have been through this battle throughout our history whenever we have a new threat. (I would offer the war powers act as an example from the Viet Nam war era).

This is not a situation where the evil monster has done something unusual. Actually what is happening is usual. New threat = new national discussion on presidential power. We will be fine.

Craig

W

Posted by: Craig Holmes at July 22, 2007 12:49 AM
Comment #227065

Loyal Opp, thank you for proving yet again why Republicans were thrown to the minority party in 2006. Reality and many Republicans don’t mix. Nonsense, you say? Those were the very reasons the voters through Republicans out of office, and why they will do so yet again in 2008.

But, I respect your right to hold a minority position and view, and your right to support your minority Party. Diversity and tolerance are two of America’s greatest strengths.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 22, 2007 12:53 AM
Comment #227068

Sorry, Craig, but your argument doesn’t hold water in light of the US Attorney firings, or commutation of Scooter Libby’s sentence, or the relieving of military commanders who held a different view or advice, or I might add, the still complete absence of border security now 6 years after 9/11.

You are trying to offer a rationale for breaking the law, on the basis of security. Which flies in the face of this Administration’s position on keeping our borders wide open to terrorist infiltration these last 6 years. It just doesn’t wash and is wholly inconsistent as an explanation for the White House’s actions.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 22, 2007 12:59 AM
Comment #227072

David, my support for my minority party is such that I’ve had a number of testy telephone conversations lately with fundraisers in which I’ve explained why I’m withholding my contributions.

But it’s a lot like a family argument. I might express strong disapproval to my little sister for dressing like Britney Spears, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stand idly by when an outsider comes along and calls her a whore.

Loyal Opp, WRONG! It is about the violation of our current laws that prohibit the use of executive power to threaten or fire members of the Justice Department for refusing to yield to political directives, in deference to their sworn oath to the Constitution and the laws of this land.

That’s a full boatload—no, an entire flotilla—of unadulterated bull stuff. What law was broken? The “law” of your own political opinion?

Justice Department employees are political appointees—every single one of them—and can be fired at any time, even for political reasons. This is not news, and is not something dreamed up by the Bush administration. Every administration has political agendas which they seek to emphasize in their enforcement of the laws, as well as areas which they de-emphasize. It’s why Clinton was more willing to prosecute violations of firearms laws than he was union racketeering. It’s why, sadly, under all recent administrations, there’s been basically no enforcement of border enforcement and immigration. The Justice Department is what it’s designed to be: political. It’s not the same thing as the Judiciary at all, which is a separate branch of government, and this seems to be the source of a lot of confusion. It’s one of the reason we elect our presidents—because of the political agendas they will seek to bolster through their control of the Justice Department. This IS our system, and it’s completely, 100% Constitutional.

You can keep talking about the “laws” that were broken here, but you’ll never be able to actually point out a law that was broken because your accusation is completely without substance.

The ONLY way ANY law COULD have been broken was if a US attorney was dismissed to thwart an active and ongoing investigation. How much evidence is there of that? NONE. In the cases where fired attorneys were investigating Republicans, their replacements went right on investigating them with the full approval of the Justice Department, and some were even convicted.

Some might ask: then, if no laws were broken, why doesn’t the administration go along with Congress and allow them to investigate? But by the same logic, why doesn’t Congress just allow the White House to read all of their emails, interrogate their staffers, and go through their desks on the vague chance of finding something that they can allege to be illegal too? Perhaps—I don’t know—the administration suspects that Senators or their staffers have been leaking classified information to the New York Times? Why not? Let’s do it! What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

Or: Either the separation of powers exists or it doesn’t. Don’t claim rights for one branch and deny them to other on the basis of your own political allegiances and preferences.

In short: people are accusing the administration of “violating” the Constitution. The Constitution is question, however, in not the one framed by our founders.

Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t appear to have the detachment necessary to understand the difference between the United States Constitution and the laws of this country and their own agitated partisan beliefs and agendas.

It’s why—exactly why— they can’t tell the difference between George Bush’s many inadequacies as a political leader and genuine violations of the law.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at July 22, 2007 01:51 AM
Comment #227073

David,
I wanted to like Obama, but so far, he seems a little too slick, and whole lot too vague to garner my vote, too. Basically I’m tired of bullsh*ters getting to sit in the Oval Office who smile as they lie to all of us. And to be perfectly honest, I really don’t think we can afford another liar (whether slick like Willie, or moronic like W) after all the damage the Bush administration has done to this nation.
To be perfectly honest, at the moment, I don’t really want to elect ANY of the candidates who are currently running. While it’s clear as can be that Kucinich and Paul are the most honest, in some ways they both seem slightly like kooks to me, too. Just my impression.
In the next election, I really think it’s important for us to elect someone who is brilliant and wise, as well as honest. A kook isn’t going to cut the mustard with what we’re facing at the moment. We’ve got so much to consider, we really need someone who is intelligent enough to juggle a lot of serious problems at once.
I think that’s why I’m still hoping that Gore will run. He definitely possesses the brains for the job, and the steady and even tempered personality. After he won, yet was denied the office in 2000, he really seemed to come into his own in the way of a statesman. Right now, he is clearly beholden to no one, and speaking his mind forthrightly — a man who is obviously following his own path, and doing so well outside the Beltway. I think he’s just what America needs.
Btw, if you ever get a chance to check out ‘Assault on Reason’, I highly recommend it.

Oh, and great reply to Craig Holmes.

LO:
“As far as the struggles between the three coequal branches of government go, however, the Executive branch is isn’t necessarily becoming more “authoritarian” than Congress or the courts”

This is pure bunk. I could come up with a list as long as my arm of totally unprecedented authoritarian maneuvers they’ve pulled. I’m sure you’ll want a few examples, so let me give you just a couple — no wait, make that 750 — signing statements, that is. Negates Congressional legislation entirely.
Unprecedented. Authoritarian.
Claiming his executive privilege somehow goes for his staff members as well as himself? Making them all immune from Congressional oversight and investigation? And in Libby’s case, warranted jail time?
Please, take off the partisan blinders and do get real, won’t you? Practically Everything this adminstration has been doing ranks as Authoritarian. Everything.

Posted by: Adrienne at July 22, 2007 01:54 AM
Comment #227075

Yes, LO, that is weak. By your understanding of separation of powers, Congress has no oversight, no ability to investigate, no power to hold anyone in contempt of Congress, etc. Actually, what you are saying is apparently true, which demonstrates how important it is for Congress to immediately begin impeachment proceedings.

Posted by: Gerrold at July 22, 2007 02:14 AM
Comment #227076

Adrienne, there may be at times a fine line between “authority” and “authoritarian.” Its just so easy to say—and why not?—that any exercise of authority is authoritarian if you don’t agree with it. It’s the same reason a lot of children allege that their parents are tyrants worse than Caligula or Adolf Hitler if they’re forced to eat their vegetables.

I won’t even bother to argue with you about the Bush administration specifically, partially because your mind is already made up and immune to arguments, and partially because I’m no fan of about 75% of what Bush does.

But for the record, Congressional oversight is 100% intact in the areas where it belongs, and is being PROPERLY resisted in areas where it does not. Congress is not judge, jury, and executioner over the other two branches of government. It has no business setting itself up as a court of law separate from the judicial branch, or an administration separate from the executive branch. Signing statements, also, are almost totally meaningless and are nothing more than a completely unnecessary statement of how a president interprets a law. No judge is required to interpret a law at trial according to a president’s signing statement, and no president is required to adhere to a previous president’s signing statement. Nor, even, does any president need to issue a signing statement to just go ahead and interpret any law just as they see it, whether they spell it out for us or not.

For some reason—and I totally agree that it’s dumb—the Bush administration keeps trying to do just do that. But dumb is not illegal. It’s just dumb.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at July 22, 2007 02:19 AM
Comment #227077

Adrienne, there may be at times a fine line between “authority” and “authoritarian.” Its just so easy to say—and why not?—that any exercise of authority is authoritarian if you don’t agree with it. It’s the same reason a lot of children allege that their parents are tyrants worse than Caligula or Adolf Hitler if they’re forced to eat their vegetables.

I won’t even bother to argue with you about the Bush administration specifically, partially because your mind is already made up and immune to arguments, and partially because I’m no fan of about 75% of what Bush does.

But for the record, Congressional oversight is 100% intact in the areas where it belongs, and is being PROPERLY resisted in areas where it does not. Congress is not judge, jury, and executioner over the other two branches of government. It has no business setting itself up as a court of law separate from the judicial branch, or an administration separate from the executive branch. Signing statements, also, are almost totally meaningless and are nothing more than a completely unnecessary statement of how a president interprets a law. No judge is required to interpret a law at trial according to a president’s signing statement, and no president is required to adhere to a previous president’s signing statement. Nor, even, does any president need to issue a signing statement to just go ahead and interpret any law just as they see it, whether they spell it out for us or not.

For some reason—and I totally agree that it’s dumb—the Bush administration keeps trying to do just do that. But dumb is not illegal. It’s just dumb.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at July 22, 2007 02:32 AM
Comment #227092

LO:
“Adrienne, there may be at times a fine line between “authority” and “authoritarian.””

Except for the small percentage of loyal Bushie apologists, everyone recognizes that the Bush Administration crossed that line a long time ago.

“Its just so easy to say—and why not?—that any exercise of authority is authoritarian if you don’t agree with it. It’s the same reason a lot of children allege that their parents are tyrants worse than Caligula or Adolf Hitler if they’re forced to eat their vegetables.”

Oh sure, that’s right, it’s all in our immature little minds. We’re all just overreacting because Big Daddy Bush is trying to force us to eat our vegetables. Only he knows what’s right and good for us, and we just can’t see that. So if he has to trick us and hide things from us, that’s okay. Because we’re his children, and children sometimes have to be kept in the dark — for our own good.
The problem with this scenario is that it’s Bullsh*t. We the People and Congress aren’t children, even though that’s the way they’ve been treating us. The other problem is that Big Daddy and his cronies have proven themselves to be liars, idiots and gross incompetents. So when they try to claim they know what’s best for us, we are no longer willing to trust a word of it. In fact, at this point we’re pretty sure they’re only adding another serious problem to the mountain of terrible problems they’ve created already.

“I won’t even bother to argue with you about the Bush administration specifically, partially because your mind is already made up, and immune to arguments,”

Yeah, it’s made up, alright. And I often get the sense that many on the right don’t want to argue specifics with me or many other folks here. Not only because it’s really hard to defend the things they’ve been doing, but because you know full well that we’re fully capable of mounting intelligent arguments against their outrageous and frequently unprecedented actions, and able to explain and defend every one of our positions.

“and partially because I’m no fan of about 75% of what Bush does.”

So you say. Yet, in so many of these threads I’ve seen you trying to defend the secretive, and dishonest actions of this Neocon administration. So I have to admit that I’m confused about what exactly you don’t like about what Bush does.

“But for the record, Congressional oversight is 100% intact in the areas where it belongs, and is being PROPERLY resisted in areas where it does not. Congress is not judge, jury, and executioner over the other two branches of government. It has no business setting itself up as a court of law separate from the judicial branch, or an administration separate from the executive branch. Signing statements, also, are almost totally meaningless and are nothing more than a completely unnecessary statement of how a president interprets a law.”

How is Congress making itself judge jury and executioner? They’re only passing legislation, which is one of their primary function — along with putting checks and balances on the president’s actions. Bush, not wanting anyone to check or thwart him in whatever he wants to do, has been negating much of that legislation with these signing statements. Let’s take a look at some of these, and see if you can defend their necessity, or explain what he’s trying to do, shall we?

March 9: Justice Department officials must give reports to Congress by certain dates on how the FBI is using the USA Patriot Act to search homes and secretly seize papers.

Bush’s signing statement: The president can order Justice Department officials to withhold any information from Congress if he decides it could impair national security or executive branch operations.

Dec. 30, 2005: US interrogators cannot torture prisoners or otherwise subject them to cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment.

Bush’s signing statement: The president, as commander in chief, can waive the torture ban if he decides that harsh interrogation techniques will assist in preventing terrorist attacks.

Dec. 30: When requested, scientific information ”prepared by government researchers and scientists shall be transmitted [to Congress] uncensored and without delay.”

Bush’s signing statement: The president can tell researchers to withhold any information from Congress if he decides its disclosure could impair foreign relations, national security, or the workings of the executive branch.

Aug. 8: The Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and its contractors may not fire or otherwise punish an employee whistle-blower who tells Congress about possible wrongdoing.

Bush’s signing statement: The president or his appointees will determine whether employees of the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission can give information to Congress.

Dec. 23, 2004: Forbids US troops in Colombia from participating in any combat against rebels, except in cases of self-defense. Caps the number of US troops allowed in Colombia at 800.

Bush’s signing statement: Only the president, as commander in chief, can place restrictions on the use of US armed forces, so the executive branch will construe the law ”as advisory in nature.”

Dec. 17: The new national intelligence director shall recruit and train women and minorities to be spies, analysts, and translators in order to ensure diversity in the intelligence community.

Bush’s signing statement: The executive branch shall construe the law in a manner consistent with a constitutional clause guaranteeing ”equal protection” for all. (In 2003, the Bush administration argued against race-conscious affirmative-action programs in a Supreme Court case. The court rejected Bush’s view.)

Oct. 29: Defense Department personnel are prohibited from interfering with the ability of military lawyers to give independent legal advice to their commanders.

Bush’s signing statement: All military attorneys are bound to follow legal conclusions reached by the administration’s lawyers in the Justice Department and the Pentagon when giving advice to their commanders.

Aug. 5: The military cannot add to its files any illegally gathered intelligence, including information obtained about Americans in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches.

Bush’s signing statement: Only the president, as commander in chief, can tell the military whether or not it can use any specific piece of intelligence.

Nov. 6, 2003: US officials in Iraq cannot prevent an inspector general for the Coalition Provisional Authority from carrying out any investigation. The inspector general must tell Congress if officials refuse to cooperate with his inquiries.

Bush’s signing statement: The inspector general ”shall refrain” from investigating anything involving sensitive plans, intelligence, national security, or anything already being investigated by the Pentagon. The inspector cannot tell Congress anything if the president decides that disclosing the information would impair foreign relations, national security, or executive branch operations.

Nov. 5, 2002: Creates an Institute of Education Sciences whose director may conduct and publish research ”without the approval of the secretary [of education] or any other office of the department.”

Bush’s signing statement: The president has the power to control the actions of all executive branch officials, so ”the director of the Institute of Education Sciences shall [be] subject to the supervision and direction of the secretary of education.”

“No judge is required to interpret a law at trial according to a president’s signing statement, and no president is required to adhere to a previous president’s signing statement. Nor, even, does any president need to issue a signing statement to just go ahead and interpret any law just as they see it, whether they spell it out for us or not.”

You clearly don’t understand the difference between the way that Bush has been aggressively and dismissively using signing statements against Congressional legislation, in comparison with the way that other presidents used them (and yes, many of these previously were also obvious abuses of presidential power). Here, read this article:
The Problem with Presidential Signing Statements: Their Use and Misuse by the Bush Administration

If you don’t like that one, let me know and I’ll provide you with another. There really are an enormous number of articles that have been written by Constitutional scholars and lawyers describing how Bush is using them to control anything and everything that might put a check on his power.

“For some reason—and I totally agree that it’s dumb—the Bush administration keeps trying to do just do that. But dumb is not illegal. It’s just dumb.”

I think it is illegal, because without a doubt a president completely negating any legislation he doesn’t like should be viewed as Unconstitutional.

Posted by: Adrienne at July 22, 2007 01:57 PM
Comment #227095

LO,

You are incorrect. Congress has the Constitutional power to oversee the executive branch.

It has the power to organize the executive branch by establishing or abolishing exectuvie offices. It has the power to assign and reassign functions as it sees fit. It created the cabinet offices; it created the Justice Department. These offices are creations of the Congress; it can abolish them or change their functions at will.

It has the power to fund or not fund any activity or function it wishes. No money may be drawn from the Treasury without Congressional approval for any purpose.

It has the power to create laws which the executive branch enforces. These laws control the very functioning of the executive branch.

It has the power to confirm or not to confirm officers of the state.

In order to carry out its duties, Congress has the well-established implicit power to engage in investigations and inquiries. Without good information about how the executive branch uses the money and executive offices established by Congress, it is unable to fulfill its duties.

Finally, Congress has the absolute right to be the judge (and “executioner”) of high officials of the state. That is what impeachment involves: trial and conviction. A president has overstepped his bounds if the Congress says so. Period.

Posted by: Gerrold at July 22, 2007 02:09 PM
Comment #227110

Loyal Opposition said of the congress: “It has no business setting itself up as a court of law separate from the judicial branch,”

Man, why don’t you READ your Constitution before you try defending or attacking it. Your comment’s ignorance of what the Constitution says is a chasm. And your entire argument rendered unintelligible by its gross ignorance of what the Constitution says.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 22, 2007 04:25 PM
Comment #227130

Gerrold and David, you’ve both made excellent points. I agree with both of you that LO is making arguments without fully understanding the true and vitally important role that Congress was meant to play in our government.

Posted by: Adrienne at July 22, 2007 06:17 PM
Comment #227409

Wow. You’d all have just made very excellent points if I’d actually said that Congress didn’t have oversight over the Executive Branch under the US Constitution. Congress DOES and I never said otherwise.

Apparently, however, the three of you—Gerrold, David, and Adrienne—do not acknowledge that either the Constitution or legal precedent places ANY limits whatsoever on what forms Congressional oversight can take. The Executive Branch, according to you, is just the whipping boy of Congress, and has no rights whatsoever to resist anything Congress might demand.

Congress wants to subpoena, try, and punish officers of the Executive Branch over political matters in which there are no proceedings underway except those initiated by Congressional committees? No problem! Congress wants to claim as their own the duties and rights which the Constitution explicitly describes as the duties and rights of the executive or judiciary branch of government? No problem! All hail our new King and Queen, Harry and Nancy!

I guess you must think that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi can just shove Laura and George out of their bed in the West Wing if the mood strikes them. That they can just tear the robe off John Roberts and enshrine themselves as the rulers of the Supreme Court. And why not, if the other branches of government have no right to resist the divine will of the leaders of Congress.

Don’t talk to me about the Constitution. I’m seriously beginning to doubt that the three of you have even read it.

Posted by: Loyal Opposition at July 25, 2007 11:54 PM
Comment #227459

Loyal Opp, when you say the Congress has no right to set itself up as a court - It is you who have not read the Constitution, for it clearly states the Congress Can try cases regarding the Executive Branch.

Read it, your comments may actually become credible afterward.

Posted by: David R. Remer at July 26, 2007 03:46 PM
Comment #227995

Bush purposefully puts on the appearance of being a stump.

Don’t be fooled for a second that things are not going exactly as planned.

Iraq is *exactly* what bush, his gang, and the US military wanted: An on going reason to drain cash out of future generations for todays warmachine.

“President Bush is now making his own laws through signing statements, then hiding those laws and their enforcement under Executive Privilege and Authority”

If you can supply some form of proof on both these things happening. That is treason and not covered by executive privilege. All branches must be involved in any manipulation of the rules of the constitution.

Posted by: jrjr at July 31, 2007 08:55 PM
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