Sunday, September 17, 2006

Bush Unhinged

Yesterday I described the Emperor as the WATB-in-Chief for his behavior during Friday's press conference. Today, the NY Times used a more polite term in its editorial: "Bush Untethered."

On Friday, President Bush posed a choice between ignoring the law on wiretaps, and simply not keeping tabs on terrorists. Then he said the United States could rewrite the Geneva Conventions, or just stop questioning terrorists. To some degree, he is following a script for the elections: terrify Americans into voting Republican. But behind that seems to be a deeply seated conviction that under his leadership, America is right and does not need the discipline of rules. He does not seem to understand that the rules are what makes this nation as good as it can be.

...Legislation is needed on the prisoner issue, although not as urgently as Mr. Bush says. Three Republican senators, John McCain, John Warner, and Lindsey Graham, have a bill that is far better than the White House version but it, too, has some huge flaws that will take time to fix. It will be hard in an election year, but if the Republicans stand firm, and Democrats insist on the needed changes, they might just require Mr. Bush to recognize that he is subject to the same restraints that applied to every other president of this nation of laws.
[Emphasis added]

The Gray Lady has made a good point, which would have been sharper if she hadn't also printed an op-ed piece by one of the Bush-enablers in the same edition. Mr. Yoo, who served in the Bush regime 2001-03, believes in an imperial presidency, even though he tries to frame the issue as "restoring" the presidency.

But the president has broader goals than even fighting terrorism — he has long intended to make reinvigorating the presidency a priority. Vice President Dick Cheney has rightly deplored the “erosion of the powers and the ability of the president of the United States to do his job” and noted that “we are weaker today as an institution because of the unwise compromises that have been made over the last 30 to 35 years.”

...That is why Mr. Bush has issued hundreds of signing statements — more than any previous president — reserving his right not to enforce unconstitutional laws.

A reinvigorated presidency enrages President Bush’s critics, who seem to believe that the Constitution created a system of judicial or congressional supremacy. Perhaps this is to be expected of the generation of legislators that views the presidency through the lens of Vietnam and Watergate. But the founders intended that wrongheaded or obsolete legislation and judicial decisions would be checked by presidential action, just as executive overreaching is to be checked by the courts and Congress.

But the presidency, unlike Congress, is the only office elected by and accountable to the nation as a whole. The president has better access to expertise from the unified executive branch — including its top secret data — than the more ad hoc information Congress develops through hearings and investigations.

That is why, while jealous of its prerogatives, Congress usually goes along with a president’s policy decisions. A strong executive can accept responsibility for difficult choices that Congress wants to avoid. The Republican Congress, for instance, wanted to give President Bill Clinton a line-item veto, only to be blocked by the Supreme Court. Despite hearings and criticism of the energetic executive, Congress has yet to pass laws reining in Mr. Bush very much.

Congress has for years been avoiding its duty to revamp or repeal outmoded parts of bygone laws in the light of contemporary threats. We have needed energy in the executive branch to fill in that gap. Congress now must act to guide our counterterror policy, but it should not try to micromanage the executive branch, particularly in war, where flexibility of action is paramount.
[Emphasis added]

If the segment I have cited from Mr. Yoo's screed seems a bit internally inconsistent, that is only because it is internally inconsistent, and intentionally so. First Mr. Yoo states that we shouldn't worry about the President gathering too much power by over-reaching because Congress and the courts can rein him in. Then he states that Congress shouldn't try to micromanage the executive because he has better information. Which is it, Mr. Yoo?

Mr. Yoo is correct in one respect, however. Congress has not done much to rein the Emperor in. Hopefully that will change following the November elections.


Anonymous Nora said...

Frankly, I believe that any institution which supports or gives space to that criminal, John Yoo, is as reprehensible as he is.

There are some theories that do not deserve the aid of any bully pulpits. There are plenty of conservative and neocon publications that will be more than happy to spread this man's filth. The New York Times damages itself by stooping to their level.

6:21 PM  

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