Thursday, February 01, 2007
The Constitution in hot water
I consider this tale apropos of the situation our constitution is going through at this point in our history.
It started with the very act which allowed this President to be sworn into office. Looking back now, we see the seeds of disregard for constitutional principle planted in the willingness by the administration to take office after stopping the counting of votes in Florida. To use the power of a stacked Supreme Court to stop a recount. To use a horribly biased, clownish buffoon of a Secretary of State in Florida to fight those who wanted to find the truth of the matter in the votes cast. Rent a mobs, high priced lawyers and family ties were the tools used by this President to gain his office. After handily losing the national election, and scoffing at the fundamental constitutional right of the people to express themselves via the vote, this President was selected to office. This is the veritable constitution being placed into a pot of water on the stove.
I mark the very first incremental increase in the temperature of the water on May 24, 2001. This is the very first time the President used a signing statement to alter the express will of the Congress in a law that he signed.
Section 3 of the bill requires the Secretary of Agriculture to submit to certain committees and subcommittees of the Congress a preliminary report concerning any immediate needs for additionalNow President Bush is hardly the first President to employ signing statements. But past Presidents typically used them in ways that clarified questions left open by the legislation in question, and only used sparingly. President Bush purports to use signing statements to invalidate entire provisions of laws he signs. In the signing statement above, he says that even though Congress passed, and he signed, a law requiring certain reports from the administration, that he reserved the right to disregard that law.
legislative authority or appropriations and a final report with recommendations for legislation that will improve efforts to assess, prevent, or control transmission of certain diseases. Section 3 will be interpreted in a manner consistent with the constitutional authority of the President to recommend to the consideration of the Congress such measures as the President shall judge necessary and expedient.
It is simply preposterous. This is a basic affront to the fundamental role laid out by the Constitution for the executive branch. Any legislative body worth it's weight in spit would have demanded those reports and entered a confrontation with the President. Rather, the Congress, until the election of 2006, meekly allowed the blizzard of such signing statements to pass unchallenged. As far as I'm concerned the Republican Rubberstamp Congress allowing Bush to rule, with no oversight what so ever, even in the face of widely known unmitigated disaster is another instance of the heat of the water being increased ever so slightly.
The next increase in temperature came in response to 09/11/2001. This day ought to be remembered by successive generations as a holy day. A day of sorrow and contemplation. A day that unites the nation in grief.
And this nation did unite as never before. After 9/11 President Bush enjoyed unheard of support both internationally and domestically. Indeed at the time Democrats were heard to say that they were glad President Bush had been selected President. Not because Al Gore would have been a bad leader during these times, but because the nation could unite behind Bush. This was not intended to reflect positively for Bush oddly enough. It was Democrats recognizing that modern day Republican leadership is so bitterly divisive and partisan that they would have refused to unite behind a President Gore.
What did President Bush do with this wealth of support after 9/11. He turned up the heat on the constitution. He pushed through the patriot act. He authorized wiretaps that did not follow the guidelines of the FISA law. He authorized the torture of detainees captured in the new war on terror. He authorized secret prisons and asserted his right to declare American citizens "enemy combatants", liable to imprisonment with no legal recourse. This is not just theoretical either, he has actually done this to American citizens. All of these actions further eroded the constitution.
Indeed the President often expresses the basic logic he uses in order to carry out these unconstitutional measures. You can find quote after quote, in speech after speech in which the President says that the most solemn duty he has is to protect the people of the United States of America. The fact of the matter is that his most solemn duty, the duty which he swore to uphold on two separate occasions, is to protect and defend the constitution of the United States of America to the best of his abilities. That then is his most solemn duty.
Using the political capital given him by a united nation after 9/11, George Bush and his administration lied to the world, the nation, and Congress in order to start a needless war. The war in Iraq, based upon lies, mistaken idealism and greed, is the embodiment of the so called Bush doctrine which advocates pre-emptive war. If the policy of the nation is to start war pre-emptively, it must be by Congressional mandate. The President was given this figleaf for his war in Iraq, but only after using his administration as a weapon of mass deception. The administrations deceptiveness and manipulation in leading America to needless war, which has dramatically harmed our interests in the true war on terror, is another incremental increase in the ambient temperature surrounding the constitution.
There are many more examples of this administrations disdain for constitutional principle. I believe the underlying point here is made sufficiently though. The constitution is being incrementally boiled alive and it is well past time that the administration be stopped from continuing the practice. It may already be too late. The precedents, the ongoing damage to the balance of powers, and the consequences we will experience for generations to come because of the blunders of this President may be beyond mitigation.
The only hope I see at this point is for the Congress to call upon the constitutional remedy provided for the removal of federal officers. Our generation faces a decision that will affect nothing less than the future course of Democracy in America. We can allow the constitution to be altered, or perhaps even done away with by this horribly misguided administration, or we can make a lesson of them for future generations with impeachment.
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