Bush speaks, the White House "corrects."
His bullish defense of recently disclosed wiretaps as "legal" is forcing Congress's hand, as it must.
Keep talking, oh my President.
These actions Bush has owned up to and vigorously defended are clearly contrary to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), passed by Congress in 1978; those guidelines, erected and revised in the wake of President Nixon's claim to similar Presidential power, clearly provide Bush with the necessary means to implement what he has pursued. But Bush chose to sidestep and thus subvert & ignore those guidelines. We've already seen one judge (Robertson) resign from the judicial panel that serves the FISA process, explicitly doing so in protest of Bush's actions.
On the public record over the past week or so, President Bush has made it clear he chose to do so, he has admitted to doing so, he has asserted his power to do so.
Bush is also aggressively evoking Presidential power that President Harry Truman evoked during the Korean War; the Supreme Court explicitly ruled against case relevent to Truman's assertions, ruling that the Presidential powers Truman (and now Bush) asserted as his to wield are effective for only 15 days after an event like the 9/11 tragedy.
Of course, true to form, the White House's energy is already directed toward dealing with the messenger rather than the reality of the message. President Bush immediately characterized the disclosure as "a shameful act," arguably hinting at treason. Who told on the Prez? In the eyes of this President and Administration, public disclosure of the policy is "harmful," not the policy, which Bush defends as "legal" and, now, "limited."
Keep talking, oh my President.
The perversity of the same Justice Department that has yet to fully deal with the leak of Valerie Plame's identity -- which has already led to the resignation of "Scooter" Libby, placing the source close enough to the heart of the present Administration to prompt suspicion even among the devout supporters of this President and Administration -- now being intent on finding "who leaked" (hmmmm, no clothing stains?) is comical.
I mean, what's President Bush going to do -- fire them? He's wussed out of that bold talk regarding the Plame affair as the taint of that scandle seeps deeper in his and his circle.
Our President is currently trying to coalesce power and divert attention from the mounting scandal by mobilizing further pressure to force the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act into permanent status and rallying further aggressive promotion of "The War on Terror." This remains as dubious a "war" as any in U.S. history, declared as it is not against a definable nation or enemy, but a tactic; dubious above all given this President and Administration's gross mishandling of said "war," diverting the initial mobilization of US forces in Afghanistan to strike at those identified being responsible for the 9/11 attack to instead wage "pre-emptive war" against Iraq without justification, based on intelligence even Bush has publicly acknowledged was "faulty." (Does this prompt the logical response -- rethinking the entire concept of "pre-emptive war," in its first outing demonstratably based upon "faulty" intelligence? No, of course not. We've got a war to fight, son!)
The mad, circular illogic of this Administration is reaching critical mass. President Bush's actions and statements are at last necessarily called on the carpet -- by his own words and deeds.
Where might all this lead?
The further Bush defends his abuses of power, the deeper the conceptual "spider hole" he'll be digging. At last, he will have to own up to his actions and words.
Keep on talking, oh my President.
Journalist Jonathan Schell writes:
"As justification, [President Bush] offered two arguments, one derisory, the other deeply alarming. The derisory one was that Congress, by authorizing him to use force after September 11, had authorized him to suspend FISA, although that law is unmentioned in the resolution. Thus has Bush informed the members of a supposedly co-equal ranch of government of what, unbeknownst to themselves, they were thinking when they cast their vote. The alarming argument is that as Commander in Chief he possesses "inherent" authority to suspend laws in wartime. But if he can suspend FISA at his whim and in secret, then what law can he not suspend? What need is there, for example, to pass or not pass the Patriot Act if any or all of its provisions can be secretly exceeded by the President?
With Bush's defense of his wiretapping, the hidden state has stepped into the open. The deeper challenge Bush has thrown down, therefore, is whether the country wants to embrace the new form of government he is creating by executive fiat or to continue with the old constitutional form. He is now in effect saying, "Yes, I am above the law -- I am the law, which is nothing more than what I and my hired lawyers say it is -- and if you don't like it, I dare you to do something about it."
Members of Congress have no choice but to accept the challenge. They did so once before, when Richard Nixon, who said, "When the President does it, that means it's not illegal," posed a similar threat to the Constitution. The only possible answer is to inform Bush forthwith that if he continues in his defiance, he will be impeached.
If Congress accepts his usurpation of its legislative power, they will be no Congress and might as well stop meeting. Either the President must uphold the laws of the United States, which are Congress's laws, or he must leave office."
(Jonathan Schell, "The Hidden State Steps Forward," The Nation, January 9, 2006 issue)
However much Bush and his circle argue the "War on Terror" and "security" issues as reasons for any and all abuses of power, and evoke "the enemy" as justifying any and all abuses of power, the blatant truth of all the world saw in the wake of Hurricane Katrina -- that we are not only not "more prepared" than we were in 2001 to deal as a nation with a cataclysmic attack, we are less prepared, due to Bush's own insular brand of cronyism and incompetence -- will necessarily assert its reality.
We can all see that the train stations, the subway stations, the bus stations, and our local legal authorities are hardly "more secure." We all see our national ability to deal with short-term or long-term crisis situations has been so co-opted by the calculated erosion of safety nets, infrastructures, and any effective organized response that we are indeed "on our own" when the worst happens. As further national resources are poured in unimaginable quantities on a daily basis into Iraq, those who fomented and mobilized this war have only further eroded "our" ability to do much of anything as they vote -- by a single decisive/divisive Vice-Presidential vote -- their budget-slashing bills into law. Bills that will, must only further concentrate wealth into the hands of the rich while impoverishing, depleting, and crippling our tentative ability to cope with any natural health care crisis -- much less an orchestrated future terrorist attack. Hell, all they now have to do is wait -- for the next hurricane season, which inevitably must come.
Who needs to wait for another 9/11 attack? We have global warming and the extremity of weather conditions that the scientific community warned us about (and which this President and Administration have brazenly ignored and refuted).
[An aside: During our visit two weeks ago to Florida, Marge and I saw with our own eyes significant sections of communities like Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda that remain as they were in the wake of Hurricane Andrew, circa 2004: low-income houses and housing still empty, homes and businesses still literally wrapped-in-plastic -- blue tarps installed in 2004 -- the only major reconstruction that of businesses and corporate chains. It doesn't take much imagination to speculate the cumulative impact of such mounting natural destruction, forced dislocation, capitalism-driven reconstruction, and lack of societal investment in any meaningful support infrastructures gains momentum as the natural disasters seasonally return.]
In the meantime, at least President Bush has changed his five years worth of diversionary tactics into talking about "taking responsibility."
Shall we take him at his word?
As Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich said on December 14, 2005 after President Bush's December speech on Iraq to the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC:
"The President, who has given a series of reasons for the war, in his latest in a series of speeches promoting the war, now says one thousand days after the invasion, it was about getting rid of Saddam Hussein. Not about WMD's, because there were none. Not about Iraq obtaining uranium from Niger. It did not. Not about Iraq's connection to 9/11, because there was none. Not about Iraq's connection to Al-Qeada and 9/11, because there was none.
The President now says he is responsible for the war in Iraq. I agree with the President. He is responsible. He is responsible for attacking a nation that did not attack us. He is responsible for the 2,151 American troops killed in Iraq. He is responsible for the 15,881 US troops injured in the war. He is responsible for at least 30,000 Iraqi civilians killed since the start of the war. He is responsible for draining $250 billion from US taxpayers to pay for the war. And he is responsible for the failed reconstruction and for the continued occupation."
Do we feel more secure yet?
Keep on talking, oh my President.