Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A piece of paper.

UPDATED 24-July-06
Yesterday, at Capitol Hill Blue, Doug Thomas cleansed his journalistic soul by confessing every reporting sin he has ever committed in this post: "In the end, all we have is the truth". While admitting he has posted and pulled a few incorrect stories, he stood by this one:
"Some of our more controversial stories have yet to be proven or disproved. Sources told us last year that President Bush referred to the Constitution as a "goddamned piece of paper." No other publication has confirmed the story but our sources remain firm on it and neither the White House nor members of Congress present at the meeting have denied the story. They simply refuse comment. It remains in our database because we believe the story is true."
The story he references is this Dec 9, 2005 post- Bush: Constitution 'just a goddamn piece of paper'
"Last month, Republican Congressional leaders filed into the Oval Office to meet with President George W. Bush and talk about renewing the controversial USA Patriot Act... GOP leaders told Bush that his hardcore push to renew the more onerous provisions of the act could further alienate conservatives still mad at the President from his botched attempt to nominate White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.

"I don't give a goddamn," Bush retorted. "I'm the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way."

"Mr. President," one aide in the meeting said. "There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution."

"Stop throwing the Constitution in my face," Bush screamed back. "It's just a goddamned piece of paper!"
Whether Bush actually said this, I cannot say.

[UPDATE]: 7/24/06 & Fixed Link 01/10/07
Recently, due primarily to the work of Eric at Classical Values, Doug Thompson and CHB has been completely discredited. The "piece of paper" story (on which the intro to this post was based) has subsequently been pulled from the CHB site, and "Doug Thompson" has "retired". Eric's series of posts on Doug and CHB are entertaining and informative. I'll summarize with this link from his most recent post on the subject, but encourage you to read it yourself :
"I'm getting a bit tired of Capitol Hill Blue. It's an unreliable web site which I'd never read before July 16, and I think it's staffed by sock puppets... is it possible that reasonable people might be able to agree that regardless of who or what it is, or how, or why it originated, Capitol Hill Blue has been so thoroughly discredited, that it should not be relied on by anyone, anywhere, ever again?"
Well Eric, I read him for the first time around June 20th, and I got suckered. I used his story in this post because I wanted an attention grabbing introduction to the well documented "Power Surge" article from the Cato Institue linked below. This article represents the real meat and basis for this post. Rather than simply edit or delete this post (as CHB has done), I have decided to leave the original post intact, as a cautionary reminder to myself and other readers. The Thompson quotes above were accurate at the time this was first posted. Subsequently, the first cited article has been changed, and the second has disappeared. In my own defense, I did not represent that the story was true, but stated it was consistent with other actions and pronouncements from the admistration, and also stated that whether he actually said it, was not as important as what the administration does. But - it is what it is. You lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas. So, I serve notice that everything above this paragraph in this post has fleas. Everything below is clean. - mw

The story is not inconsistent with the (politically corrected and filtered) views of this administration. If you are willing to read between the lines, you can see that former press secretary Ari Flescher said much the same thing in a press briefing shortly after the 9/11 attack (but in a much more politically correct and publicly palatable way).
Ultimately, what the President did or did not say, is not as important as what the administration actually did. This next excellent article details the abuse of power and the continuing erosion of our Constitutional limitations on executive power during the Bush administration. It was written by Gene Healy (author of "Arrogance of Power Reborn: The Imperial Presidency and Foreign Policy in the Clinton Years") and Timothy Lynch (author of "Dereliction of Duty: The Constitutional Record of President Clinton), both editors at the Cato Institute:
"Power Surge: The Constitutional Record of George W Bush'"
"Unfortunately, far from defending the Constitution, President Bush has repeatedly sought to strip out the limits the document places on federal power. In its official legal briefs and public actions, the Bush administration has advanced a view of federal power that is astonishingly broad, a view that includes:
  • a federal government empowered to regulate core political speech, and restrict it greatly when it counts the most: in the days before a federal election;
  • a president who cannot be restrained, through validly enacted statutes, from pursuing any tactic he believes to be effective in the war on terror;
  • a president who has the inherent constitutional authority to designate American citizens suspected of terrorist activity as "enemy combatants," strip them of any constitutional protection, and lock them up without charges for the duration of the war on terror, in other words, perhaps forever; and
  • a federal government with the power to supervise virtually every aspect of American life, from kindergarten, to marriage, to the grave.
President Bush's constitutional vision is, in short, sharply at odds with the text, history, and structure of our Constitution, which authorizes a government of limited powers."
George W Bush believes that his post 9/11 role, as a wartime president, is to defend the country as he sees fit, regardless of legal or constitutional constraints. This is not without historical precedent. It is the rule, not the exception, that wartime presidents have a history of broadly stretching the power and reach of the executive branch. Examples include Lincoln suspending habeas corpus, FDR building detainment camps and relocating Japanese Americans, Truman bypassing Congress and the U.N. with the fictional legalistic construct of a "police action" to fight a war in Korea, and now Bush claiming the power to suspend any American's Constitutional protections if he unilaterally decides they are an "enemy combatant". In the past these presidential abuses have ultimately been rolled back over time, by Congress or the judiciary as the perceived or real crisis abated.

But there is a difference now. We are told that we are embroiled in a "forever" war against terrorism that could last decades. Now what? How many Presidents will wield these ever expanding powers?

Is this what it comes to? Have we finally become so fat and complacent that we are ready to give up our constitutional limitations on government power out of our fear of terrorism? Have we really come to this? Does fear finally trump liberty for today's Americans? Is this the generation that will finally fail to preserve the Constitution for the next generation?

We face a fundamental question about what America is to be, and how we are to be governed.

Our Constitution calls for checks and balances on power between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. The legislative branch has abrogated their Constitutional war-making responsibilities by handing the executive branch a blank check on Iraq and the "war on terror". The President has declared provenance over the judicial branch for Americans that he alone can label an "enemy combatant".

What are the prospects for change? We now have a majority of the Supreme Court appointed by Republicans, a Republican majority in the Senate, a Republican majority in the House, and a Republican Executive administration that weilds the reigns of the government based on criteria of personal loyalty, while freely using the whip of partisan fealty, and does not distinguish between political opposition and "aiding the enemy".

The checks and balances on government power as envisioned by the founding fathers of this country are broken.
Regardless of your political party, whether Republican, Democrat, Independent, or 3rd party -

Regardless of your political philosophy, whether Liberal, Conservative, or Libertarian -

Regardless of what you personally think about George W Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld or our pork-barrel pandering Congress -

Regardless of whether you are pessimistic, optimistic, or cynical about the war and our leaders -
If you would like the Constitution to remain something more than "a piece of paper", the time has come for Americans to impose some semblance of check and balance on the federal government by ending the dangerous single party control that we have today.

The time to do this is now in 2006, and not to wait for 2008.

This is not about Republicans vs. Democrats. This is not about whether your incumbent Congressman or Congresswoman is the better candidate than their challenger. This is about creating greater partisan balance in Washington in order to restore Constitutional constraints on government power now, before it is too late.

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