Bush Caught With Hand In Constitutional Cookie Jar
While the pundits of cable news bury themselves in the particulars of the fired attorney story, let's not forget what really happened here. The problem with President Bush is that he sees himself as the Decider, the living law of the land. Legislation passed by Congress? Mere suggestions that he'll follow if he feels like it. That's what all the signing statements are about. This has always been an executive power grab, for total authoritarian rule.
One law Bush feels like following is the War Powers Act. It grants him special powers if there's a war on. No problem. We'll have a War on Terror that will not end in our lifetimes. They'll always be a war so he'll have permanent special powers. Taken to the fullest extent, his interpretation of presidential powers during wartime means that all he has to do is declare someone a national security threat, and he can arrest them, detain them forever, and execute them without ever leaving the executive branch. That's his theory anyway, and yes, it is scary. You know how these attorneys serve at the pleasure of the President? Well, the real story is that we now live at the pleasure of the President.
Of course, his inexplicable fans rush to say that he would never take advantage of these powers - just trust him - but the whole point of America was that we didn't leave that to the people in charge to decide. We checked their powers so they couldn't act as tyrants - not legally anyway. President Bush wanted to destroy that. He wanted it all. So we have been living in post-Constitutional limbo here. If he wanted to right now he could declare any of us an enemy of the state and nab us on national security grounds, just as a king or dictator could. That's the problem.
We don't have time to go into what this all-powerful authoritarian ruler means to international law, but think "preemptive strike" and you'll get the picture. Nor am I going to explore the weird religious angle in which God speaks to George telling him what to do. Clearly, the real God would have included a better plan for Iraq (like stay out), but we have a leader who thinks the voices in his head are God, and that God put him in charge. The effect is that George W. Bush is God's representative on earth, a standard position for psycho leaders throughout history.
But let's focus on this attorney thing. The problem was that the Patriot Act changed the way these fired attorneys could be replaced. It eliminated the role of the Senate in confirming them giving total power in this matter to the executive branch. That led to the shenanigans because suddenly Gonzales could use the Justice Department as a weapon, knowing the sole hiring function was now in Bush's hands. If someone was investigating the wrong person - fire them and replace them in the dead of night.
Surprise! It turned out the people in charge couldn't be trusted not to take advantage of unchecked power - just as the Forefathers understood. You'll hear the details of these individual cases, but the problem all stems from unchecked power - in this case from a provision inserted into the Patriot Act.
The results were predictable. Gonzales was the obediant White House lap dog who gave birth to a new litter. The end result would have been a pack of prosecutorial pit bulls doing the bidding of their White House master, with Gonzales as the proud bitch waiting to go back into heat and do it all again.
Today there was a historic vote. It represents the beginning of a dismantling of Bush's attempt to overthrow the Constitution. The Senate voted 94 to 2 to seize back this power and take the provision out of the Patriot Act. That's quite a lopsided vote, don't you think? It's almost like people in Washington are beginning to get it, isn't it? That's what this story is about. President Bush got caught with his hand in the Constitutional cookie jar.
Senate Limits Gonzales' Hiring Authority