Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Where is this Attorney General thing headed?


Bush State of the Union
Originally uploaded by Stephen Voss.
Perhaps this is bigger than just a little hanky panky between the White House and the Justice Department.

Last October, Karen Tumulty and Mike Allen wrote an essay, "Bush's Lonely Election Season," for Time Magazine:
If lame-duck Presidents are to achieve anything, they often have to look for ways to go around Congress, especially when it is in the hands of the other party. Clinton used Executive Orders and his bully pulpit to encourage school uniforms, impose ergonomic rules on employers and prevent mining, logging and development on 60 million acres of public land. White House press secretary Tony Snow says Bush may take the same bypass around Capitol Hill. "He told all of us, 'Put on your track shoes. We're going to run to the finish,'" Snow said. "He's going to be aggressive on a lot of fronts. He's been calling all his Cabinet secretaries and telling them, 'You tell me administratively everything you can do between now and the end of the presidency. I want to see your to-do list and how you expect to do it.' We're going to try to be as ambitious and bold as we can possibly be."

In fact, when it comes to deploying its Executive power, which is dear to Bush's understanding of the presidency, the President's team has been planning for what one strategist describes as "a cataclysmic fight to the death" over the balance between Congress and the White House if confronted with congressional subpoenas it deems inappropriate. The strategist says the Bush team is "going to assert that power, and they're going to fight it all the way to the Supreme Court on every issue, every time, no compromise, no discussion, no negotiation."
You did catch that, didn't you. Let me repeat it:
when it comes to deploying its Executive power, which is dear to Bush's understanding of the presidency, the President's team has been planning for what one strategist describes as "a cataclysmic fight to the death" over the balance between Congress and the White House if confronted with congressional subpoenas it deems inappropriate. The strategist says the Bush team is "going to assert that power, and they're going to fight it all the way to the Supreme Court on every issue, every time, no compromise, no discussion, no negotiation."
Got that? And it's playing out today... it's only coincidence that the cataclysmic fight to the death is over the Attorney General's office canning a few federal prosecutors. We could be here over pretty much anything.

And, frankly, I'm not surprised. This has been brewing since President Bush and Vice President Cheney took office. Yes, I include the VP here, as I believe that empowering the Executive is one of the key things that Mr. Cheney wanted to accomplish during his tenure.

Last July, Jane Mayer wrote in the New Yorker that Vice President Cheney was working on a New Paradigm, a strategy that
rests on a reading of the Constitution that few legal scholars share-namely, that the President has the authority to disregard virtually all legal boundaries, if national security demands it. Under this framework, statutes prohibiting torture, secret detention, and warrantless surveillance have been set aside.
Way back in January 2005, Bob Woodward wrote
The vice president has been at the forefront of an effort by the Bush White House to promote an expansive view of presidential power by frequently invoking constitutional principle in refusing to hand over documents to Congress or allowing administration officials to testify before congressional committees.
J. Andrew Morrison and Larry Jordan suggest that Mr. Cheney is a pompous ass. I'm sure others do, too.

But that aside, do we really want an all-powerful Executive, or do we want checks and balances?

Hat tip to Kagro X and his What's Bush's game?.

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