Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Checking the News

Yesterday former Vice-President Al Gore gave a speech which was to be introduced by former Congressman Bob Barr. Given that the two men are on the opposite ends of the political spectrum, one would think the appearance of both on the same podium would have been considered quite newsworthy. Unfortunately, 'technological problems' caused Mr. Barr's appearance to be cancelled (he was to speak via satellite), but the cancellation didn't happen until the last minute, so one would have expected the event to have been covered by at least a few of the reporters from the top tier of the mainstream media. After viewing the articles in the NY Times and the Washington Post, that appears not to have been the case.

The NY Times didn't bother to send a reporter. The Times article is simply a reprint of an AP report in which nearly half of the article was eaten up by the responses to the speech by the GOP spokeswoman of the day and by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The Washington Post did a little better. It printed a story (located on page A3)by one of its reporters, but the thrust of the article was simply Gore's statement that the President had broken the law with the warrantless NSA spying.

Given the actual contents of the speech, the coverage was appalling and shameful. The text of the speech (which varied slightly from that which was actually delivered) can be found here and should be read in its entirety. Here are a few snippets which will give some idea on what Mr. Gore said and what the allegedly liberal mainstream media missed.

A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government.

...An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution - an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free. In the words of James Madison, "the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

The greater the power of the executive grows, the more difficult it becomes for the other branches to perform their constitutional roles. As the executive acts outside its constitutionally prescribed role and is able to control access to information that would expose its actions, it becomes increasingly difficult for the other branches to police it. Once that ability is lost, democracy itself is threatened and we become a government of men and not laws.

...the most serious damage has been done to the legislative branch. The sharp decline of congressional power and autonomy in recent years has been almost as shocking as the efforts by the Executive Branch to attain a massive expansion of its power.

...both Houses of Congress should hold comprehensive-and not just superficial-hearings into these serious allegations of criminal behavior on the part of the President. And, they should follow the evidence wherever it leads.
[Emphasis added]

Mr. Gore, himself the Democratic nominee for President in 2000, gave the clearest definition of the 'unitary presidential powers' that I have seen to date, but, even more importantly, he explained forcefully what such a concept does to the Constitutionally defined separation of powers.

He excoriated the Congress for so willingly giving up its powers so easily and for confirming judges who only further the President's goal of usurping all governmental powers. In the last section cited above, Mr. Gore urged the remedy without having to say the word "impeachment," although that is surely where the evidence would lead.

Either the Times and the Post weren't listening or they are cowards and therefor complicit in the power-grab. Neither is particularly helpful to the public they purportedly serve.



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