I’ve been meaning to write this post for a little while but net issues have been keeping me away. In any event, the recent passage of the so-called “FISA reform” (now with telecom immunity!) has sent the Health of the Republic tumbling downward. I had begun to be cautiously optimistic that American liberty might begin to recover now that we are approaching the end of the Worst Administration Ever.
But Senator Obama and the Senate Democrats blew this call. Somehow they believe there is a huge constituency for enhanced domestic spying, for rewarding lawbreakers, and for undermining the Constitution. I understand the political calculus, I think, but I’m pretty sure it’s flat-out wrong and it’s disturbing to see the “change” candidate get stuck in worn-out thinking. Usually, Sen. Obama treats Americans as smart and engaged. He is never better than when an issues is nuanced and charged. This time, he just surrendered to the “We must sacrifice liberty to survive the Evil Terrorists” meme.
I’m still going to vote for him and I’ll probably even continue to donate money. After all, the only hope of addressing the ills of this bill lie with a Democratic President and Congress — you can be sure McCain won’t do anything to rein it in. But something has gone out of my enthusiasm. The public finance thing and the slow withdrawal thing didn’t really faze me. But this was important.
It was a chance to lead, and he blew it — and we don’t have all that many chances left.
Long before this blog, I kept an equally-erratic literary journal called A Voice in the Wilderness. And while nothing written there was particularly world-shattering, I don’t want it to get lost in the mists of cyberspace. So to do my part to save the planet, I’m going to recycle and reuse that content, putting the save-worthy stuff here on Mongrel Dogs. Today we start with a piece written in reaction to an op-ed in the Washington Post written by one Victoria Toensing, on 2002 September 23, about the then-nascent Bush policy of secret detention and arbitrary arrest. Sadly it’s five years later and we are five years deeper into the pit, the cause of liberty even more undermined by its alleged defenders.
The piece is reproduced below the fold.
In reading this AP News story on the upcoming speech by the President, I came across the following:
Bush and his senior advisers are likely to hear the initial thinking from Ryan Crocker, Bush’s envoy in Baghdad
Isn’t Ryan Crocker the accredited ambassador to Iraq? Confirmed and empowered, one would hope, by the United States Senate? He’s not some office flunky that Bush sent over to Iraq for a look-see. He’s the full-time diplomatic representative (to an allegedly sovereign nation) of the United States of America, not of George W. Bush. Talk about your imperial presidencies! It’s about as bad as when Bush himself said, of Rumsfeld,
Good. He’s done a heck of a job. He’s conducted two wars, and at the same time is out to transfer my military from a military that was constructed for the post-Cold War to one that is going to be constructed to fight terrorism.
Ominous phrases, both.
With exactly 18 months left to go in office, this President has made a sweeping and unprecedented play for unchecked power. According to a Washington Post article, the President intends to claim that Congress cannot pursue its investigation into the political firing of 9 US Attorneys, because the President has exerted a broad “executive privilege” that (he claims) exempts his former underlings from testifying. By statute, enforcement of a contempt-of-Congress citation is handled through the Department of Justice, which must convene a grand jury on the matter. According to the Bush faction, because the Justice Department is a part of the executive branch and because Bus claims that the executive branch is “unitary” (an untried and abominable constitutional theory), the DoJ cannot take action that doesn’t conform to the “will” of the President.
Let that sink in there. Our government is now to be determined by the “emanations of the will of the President” — not by, say, the laws on the books (which clearly mandate that the DoJ pursue any contempt-of-Congress charge sent to it). One scholar called the attempted power grab “almost Nixonian in its scope and breadth of interpreting its power”. It’s time to stop pussy-footing around. This makes Nixon look like a little child. Even Nixon recognized that there were some checks on Presidential power; the Bush White House feels there are none.
More below the fold.
The Health of the Republic bar has dropped another 4% in recent weeks. This is largely due to the unfolding three scandals at the Department of Justice:
- The blatantly-political firing of eight US prosecutors
- The new revelations about presidential interference in the internal DOJ audit of the warrantless wiretapping program
- The rampant abuse of National Security Letters by FBI agents
More below the fold.
The Health of the Republic bar has shifted downward another percentage point. This follows the promulgation of a presidential decree that gives the White House a greater say over the issuance of policy guidelines by agencies. Previously most such documents were crafted by civil servants but now, they must pass through a politically-appointed gatekeeper (a so-called regulatory policy office) before they can be issued. The clear intent is for Bush to “regain control” over rogue agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, which for some reason seems determined to ignore presidential philosophy and, you know, do its legally-mandated job.
Not surprisingly, the new policy — demanding an aggregate estimate of costs and the determination of a “market failure” before any new regulation is promoted — was hailed by financial backers of the Bush administration, primarily businesses who find it irksome that regulatory agencies actually regulate.
This is only a 1% drop because — believe it or not — this administration has done such other egregious damage to American freedoms, that this Kremlinesque gathering-in of economic control, in comparison, ranks as a relatively minor matter. How we lived in diminished times!