Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Lawless Presidency, A Compliant Congress

Jim Hightower posts a rather long but very readable (and rather scary) article ( h/t to Snave for the link) on the preeminent issue of the day, one that most of us in the lefty blogosphere have been warning and complaining about for years now (and that has been championed and defended in the assholosphere): The still-in-progress presidential coup that is taking place in Washington DC as Congress ignores and/or abets the situation. Here's Jim:

As Al Gore pointed out in a powerful speech he gave last year (read it here), the BushCheney push for imperial power is much more dangerous and far-reaching than other presidential excesses for a couple of big reasons. First, the Bushites make no pretension that they want these powers only temporarily, instead contending that a super-powerful presidency is necessary to cope with a terrorist threat that they say will last "for the rest of our lives." Second, they are not merely pushing executive supremacy as a response to an outside threat, but as an ideological, right-wing theory of what they allege the Constitution actually meant to say.

Called the "unitary executive theory," this perverse, antidemocratic construct begs us to believe that the president has inherent executive powers that cannot be reviewed, questioned, or altered by the other branches. Bush himself has asserted that his executive power "must be unilateral and unchecked." Must? Extremist theorists aside, this effectively establishes an executive with arbitrary power over us. It creates the anti-America.


What we have is a lawless presidency. But our problem is not Bush. He is who he is -- a bonehead. He won't change, and why should he? He's getting away with his power grab! So he has no reason to step back, and every reason to keep pushing and to keep trying to institutionalize his coup.

Rather, our problem is those weaselly, wimpy, feckless members of Congress who have failed to confront the runaway executive, who have sat silent or (astonishingly) cheered and assisted as their own constitutional powers have been taken and their once-proud, coequal branch has been made subservient to the executive.

In the first six years of BushCheney, the Republican Congress operated as no more than a rubber stamp for the accretion of presidential power, shamelessly surrendering its own autonomy in a burst of mindless partisan zeal. Too many Democrats just went along, either buying the lies or being cowed by the unrelenting politics of fear and intimidation whipped up by Bush and Cheney. (The Bushites are still using these bullying tactics, as when they demanded this past summer that Congress legalize their illegal domestic spy program and CIA chief Mike McConnell warned publicly that "Americans are going to die" if Democrats failed to pass it.)

Which brings us to the new Congress run by Democrats. Where are they? Yes, I know they have only slim majorities and that the GOP uses veto threats, filibusters, and demagogic lies to fight them -- but, come on, suck it up! At least stop voting for "the diminution, the subversion, the destruction, of the Constitution." For example, the party now in charge did indeed cave in to Bush's summer demand that it legalize his warrantless spying on Americans (a Lowdowner sent an email to me saying he hopes Bush gets caught smoking pot, because then the Democrats will immediately legalize it).

The founders would be stunned that Congress has failed to assert itself. They saw checks and balances not as an option but as an obligation, a fundamental responsibility that goes to the very heart of each lawmaker's oath faithfully to support and defend the Constitution.

I think this is exactly right, and, as he points out, quoting the late, great Molly Ivins, it's time to bang pots and pans and make noise and bring the situation to the attention of our fellow citizens, the media and the members of Congress who are supposed to represent us. As always, I urge you to read the entire essay yourself. You may be scared... or you may start banging on those pots and pans.
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