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Democracy Itself Is In Grave Danger« Thread Started on Jun 2

Daily newsbrief journal for June 2004, also see http://www.usdemocrats.com/brief for a global 100-page perpetual brief and follow twitter @usdemocrats


Democracy Itself Is In Grave Danger« Thread Started on Jun 2

Postby admin » Thu Jan 26, 2012 8:02 am

Democracy Itself Is In Grave Danger« Thread Started on Jun 25, 2004, 1:37am »--------------------------------------------------------------------------------Democracy Itself Is In Grave Danger-----------------------------------by Al GoreAmerican Constitution SocietyGeorgetown University Law CenterRemarks as preparedWhen we Americans first began, our biggest danger was clearly in view: weknew from the bitter experience with King George III that the most seriousthreat to democracy is usually the accumulation of too much power in thehands of an executive, whether he be a king or a president. Our ingrainedAmerican distrust of concentrated power has very little to do with thecharacter or persona of the individual who wields that power. It is thepower itself that must be constrained, checked, dispersed and carefullybalanced, in order to ensure the survival of freedom. In addition, ourfounders taught us that public fear is the most dangerous enemy ofdemocracy because under the right circumstances it can trigger thetemptation of those who govern themselves to surrender that power tosomeone who promises strength and offers safety, security and freedom fromfear.It is an extraordinary blessing to live in a nation so carefully designedto protect individual liberty and safeguard self-governance and freecommunication. But if George Washington could see the current state of hisgeneration's handiwork and assess the quality of our generation'sstewardship at the beginning of this 21st century, what do you suppose hewould think about the proposition that our current president claims theunilateral right to arrest and imprison American citizens indefinitelywithout giving them the right to see a lawyer or inform their families oftheir whereabouts, and without the necessity of even charging them withany crime. All that is necessary, according to our new president is thathe -- the president -- label any citizen an "unlawful enemy combatant,"and that will be sufficient to justify taking away that citizen's liberty-- even for the rest of his life, if the president so chooses. And thereis no appeal.What would Thomas Jefferson think of the curious and discredited argumentfrom our Justice Department that the president may authorize what plainlyamounts to the torture of prisoners -- and that any law or treaty whichattempts to constrain his treatment of prisoners in time of war is itselfa violation of the constitution our founders put together.What would Benjamin Franklin think of President Bush's assertion that hehas the inherent power -- even without a declaration of war by theCongress -- to launch an invasion of any nation on Earth, at any time hechooses, for any reason he wishes, even if that nation poses no imminentthreat to the United States.How long would it take James Madison to dispose of our current president'srecent claim, in Department of Justice legal opinions, that he is nolonger subject to the rule of law so long as he is acting in his role ascommander in chief.I think it is safe to say that our founders would be genuinely concernedabout these recent developments in American democracy and that they wouldfeel that we are now facing a clear and present danger that has thepotential to threaten the future of the American experiment.Shouldn't we be equally concerned? And shouldn't we ask ourselves how wehave come to this point?Even though we are now attuned to orange alerts and the potential forterrorist attacks, our founders would almost certainly caution us that thebiggest threat to the future of the America we love is still the endemicchallenge that democracies have always faced whenever they have appearedin history -- a challenge rooted in the inherent difficulty ofself-governance and the vulnerability to fear that is part of humannature. Again, specifically, the biggest threat to America is that weAmericans will acquiesce in the slow and steady accumulation of too muchpower in the hands of one person.Having painstakingly created the intricate design of America, our foundersknew intimately both its strengths and weaknesses, and during theirdebates they not only identified the accumulation of power in the hands ofthe executive as the long-term threat which they considered to be the mostserious, but they also worried aloud about one specific scenario in whichthis threat might become particularly potent -- that is, when wartransformed America's president into our commander in chief, they worriedthat his suddenly increased power might somehow spill over its normalconstitutional boundaries and upset the delicate checks and balances theydeemed so crucial to the maintenance of liberty.That is precisely why they took extra care to parse the war powers in theConstitution, assigning the conduct of war and command of the troops tothe president, but retaining for the Congress the crucial power ofdeciding whether or not, and when, our nation might decide to go war.Indeed, this limitation on the power of the executive to make war was seenas crucially important. James Madison wrote in a letter to ThomasJefferson, "The Constitution supposes, what the history of all governmentsdemonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested inwar, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care, vestedthe question of war in the legislature." Link to Post - Back to Top 64.180.161.172 botAdministratormember is offline Joined: Nov 2004Posts: 4,324Re: Democracy Itself Is In Grave Danger« Reply #1 on Jun 25, 2004, 1:37am »--------------------------------------------------------------------------------In more recent decades, the emergence of new weapons that virtuallyeliminate the period of time between the decision to go to war and thewaging of war have naturally led to a reconsideration of the exact natureof the executive's war-making power. But the practicalities of modernwarfare which necessarily increase the war powers of the president at theexpense of Congress do not render moot the concerns our founders had solong ago that the making of war by the president -- when added to hisother powers -- carries with it the potential for unbalancing the carefuldesign of our Constitution, and in the process, threatening our liberty.They were greatly influenced -- far more than we can imagine -- by acareful reading of the history and human dramas surrounding thedemocracies of ancient Greece and the Roman republic. They knew, forexample, that democracy disappeared in Rome when Caesar crossed theRubicon in violation of the Senate's long prohibition against a returninggeneral entering the city while still in command of military forces.Though the Senate lingered in form and was humored for decades, whenCaesar impoliticly combined his military commander role with his chiefexecutive role, the Senate -- and with it the Republic -- withered away.And then for all intents and purposes, the great dream of democracydisappeared from the face of the Earth for 17 centuries, until its rebirthin our land.Symbolically, President Bush has been attempting to conflate his commanderin chief role and his head of government role to maximize the power peopleare eager to give those who promise to defend them against active threats.But as he does so, we are witnessing some serious erosion of the checksand balances that have always maintained a healthy democracy in America.In Justice Jackson's famous concurring opinion in the Youngstown Steelcase in the 1950s, the single most important Supreme Court case on thesubject of what powers are inherent to the commander in chief in a time ofwar, he wrote, "The example of such unlimited executive power that musthave most impressed the forefathers was the prerogative exercised byGeorge III, and the description of its evils in the declaration ofindependence leads me to doubt that they created their new Executive intheir image ... and if we seek instruction from our own times, we canmatch it only from the Executive governments we disparagingly describe astotalitarian."I am convinced that our founders would counsel us today that the greatestchallenge facing our republic is not terrorism but how we react toterrorism, and not war, but how we manage our fears and achieve securitywithout losing our freedom. I am also convinced that they would warn usthat democracy itself is in grave danger if we allow any president to usehis role as commander in chief to rupture the careful balance between theexecutive, the legislative and the judicial branches of government. Ourcurrent president has gone to war and has come back into "the city" anddeclared that our nation is now in a permanent state of war, which he saysjustifies his reinterpretation of the Constitution in ways that increasehis personal power at the expense of Congress, the courts, and everyindividual citizen.We must surrender some of our traditional American freedoms, he tells us,so that he may have sufficient power to protect us against those who woulddo us harm. Public fear remains at an unusually high level almost threeyears after we were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. In response to thosedevastating attacks, the president properly assumed his role as commanderin chief and directed a military invasion of the land in which ourattackers built their training camps, were harbored and planned theirassault. But just as the tide of battle was shifting decisively in ourfavor, the commander in chief made a controversial decision to divert amajor portion of our army to invade another country that, according to thebest evidence compiled in a new, exhaustive, bipartisan study, posed noimminent threat to us and had nothing to do with the attack against us.As the main body of our troops were redeployed for the new invasion, thosewho organized the attacks against us escaped and many of them are still atlarge. Indeed, their overall numbers seem to have grown considerablybecause our invasion of the country that did not pose any imminent threatto us was perceived in their part of the world as a gross injustice, andthe way in which we have conducted that war further fueled a sense of rageagainst the United States in those lands and, according to severalstudies, has stimulated a wave of new recruits for the terrorist groupthat attacked us and still wishes us harm.A little over a year ago, when we launched the war against this secondcountry, Iraq, President Bush repeatedly gave our people the clearimpression that Iraq was an ally and partner to the terrorist group thatattacked us, al-Qaida, and not only provided a geographic base for thembut was also close to providing them weapons of mass destruction,including nuclear bombs. But now the extensive independent investigationby the bipartisan commission formed to study the 9/11 attacks has justreported that there was no meaningful relationship between Iraq andal-Qaida of any kind. And, of course, over the course of this past year wehad previously found out that there were no weapons of mass destruction inIraq. So now, the president and the vice president are arguing with thiscommission, and they are insisting that the commission is wrong and theyare right, and that there actually was a working cooperation between Iraqand al-Qaida.The problem for the president is that he doesn't have any credibleevidence to support his claim, and yet, in spite of that, he persists inmaking that claim vigorously. So I would like to pause for a moment toaddress the curious question of why President Bush continues to make thisclaim that most people know is wrong. And I think it's particularlyimportant because it is closely connected to the questions ofconstitutional power with which I began this speech, and will profoundlyaffect how that power is distributed among our three branches ofgovernment.To begin with, our founders wouldn't be the least bit surprised at whatthe modern public opinion polls all tell us about why it's so importantparticularly for President Bush to keep the American people fromdiscovering that what he told them about the linkage between Iraq andal-Qaida isn't true. Among these Americans who still believe there is alinkage, there remains very strong support for the president's decision toinvade Iraq. But among those who accept the commission's detailed findingthat there is no connection, support for the war in Iraq dries up prettyquickly.And that's understandable, because if Iraq had nothing to do with theattack or the organization that attacked us, then that means the presidenttook us to war when he didn't have to. Almost 900 of our soldiers havebeen killed, and almost 5,000 have been wounded.Thus, for all these reasons, President Bush and Vice President Cheney havedecided to fight to the rhetorical death over whether or not there's ameaningful connection between Iraq and al-Qaida. They think that if theylose that argument and people see the truth, then they'll not only losesupport for the controversial decision to go to war, but also lose some ofthe new power they've picked up from the Congress and the courts, and faceharsh political consequences at the hands of the American people. As aresult, President Bush is now intentionally misleading the American peopleby continuing to aggressively and brazenly assert a linkage betweenal-Qaida and Saddam Hussein.If he is not lying, if they genuinely believe that, that makes them unfitin battle with al-Qaida. If they believe these flimsy scraps, then whowould want them in charge? Are they too dishonest or too gullible? Takeyour pick.Link to Post - Back to Top 64.180.161.172 botAdministratormember is offline Joined: Nov 2004Posts: 4,324Re: Democracy Itself Is In Grave Danger« Reply #2 on Jun 25, 2004, 1:38am »--------------------------------------------------------------------------------But the truth is gradually emerging in spite of the president's determineddissembling. Listen, for example, to this editorial from the FinancialTimes: "There was nothing intrinsically absurd about the WMD fears, orignoble about the opposition to Saddam's tyranny -- however lateWashington developed this. The purported link between Baghdad andal-Qaida, by contrast, was never believed by anyone who knows Iraq and theregion. It was and is nonsense."Of course the first rationale presented for the war was to destroy Iraq'sweapons of mass destruction, which turned out not to exist. Then therationale was to liberate Iraqis and the Middle East from tyranny, but ourtroops were not greeted with the promised flowers and are now viewed as anoccupying force by 92 percent of Iraqis, while only 2 percent see them asliberators.But right from the start, beginning very soon after the attacks of 9/11,President Bush made a decision to start mentioning Osama bin Laden andSaddam Hussein in the same breath in a cynical mantra designed to fusethem together as one in the public's mind. He repeatedly used this devicein a highly disciplined manner to create a false impression in the mindsof the American people that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11.Usually he was pretty tricky in his exact wording. Indeed, Bush'sconsistent and careful artifice is itself evidence that he knew full wellthat he was telling an artful and important lie -- visiblycircumnavigating the truth over and over again as if he had practiced howto avoid encountering the truth. But as I will document in a few moments,he and Vice President Cheney also sometimes departed from their trickywording and resorted to statements were clearly outright falsehoods. Inany case, by the time he was done, public opinion polls showed that fully70 percent of the American people had gotten the message he wanted them toget, and had been convinced that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the9/11 attacks.The myth that Iraq and al-Qaida were working together was no accident --the president and vice president deliberately ignored warnings before thewar from international intelligence services, the CIA, and their ownPentagon that the claim was false. Europe's top terrorism investigatorsaid in 2002, "We have found no evidence of links between Iraq andal-Qaida. If there were such links, we would have found them. But we havefound no serious connections whatsoever." A classified October 2002 CIAreport given to the White House directly undercut the Iraq-al-Qaida claim.Top officials in the Pentagon told reporters in 2002 that the rhetoricbeing used by President Bush and Vice President Cheney was "anexaggeration."And at least some honest voices within the president's own party admittedas such. Sen. Chuck Hagel, a decorated war hero who sits on the ForeignRelations Committee, said point blank, "Saddam is not in league withal-Qaida ... I have not seen any intelligence that would lead me toconnect Saddam Hussein with al-Qaida."But those voices did not stop the deliberate campaign to mislead America.Over the course of a year, the president and vice president used carefullycrafted language to scare Americans into believing there was an imminentthreat from an Iraq-armed al-Qaida.In the fall of 2002, the President told the country "You can't distinguishbetween al-Qaida and Saddam" and that the "true threat facing our countryis an al-Qaida-type network trained and armed by Saddam." At the sametime, Vice President Cheney was repeating his claim that "there isoverwhelming evidence there was a connection between al-Qaida and theIraqi government."By the Spring, Secretary of State Powell was in front of the UnitedNations claiming a "sinister nexus between Iraq and the al-Qaida terroristnetwork."But after the invasion, no ties were found. In June of 2003, the UnitedNations Security Council's al-Qaida monitoring agency told reporters hisextensive investigation had found no evidence linking the Iraqi regime toal-Qaida. By August, three former Bush administration national securityand intelligence officials admitted that the evidence used to make theIraq-al-Qaida claim was "tenuous, exaggerated and often at odds with theconclusion of key intelligence agencies." And earlier this year,Knight-Ridder newspapers reported "Senior U.S. officials now say therenever was any evidence" of a connection.So when the bipartisan 9/11 commission issued its report finding "nocredible evidence" of an Iraq-al-Qaida connection, it should not havecaught the White House off guard. Yet instead of the candor Americans needand deserve from their leaders, there have been more denials and moreinsistence without evidence. Vice President Cheney insisted even this weekthat "there clearly was a relationship" and that there is "overwhelmingevidence." Even more shocking, Cheney offered this disgraceful question:"Was Iraq involved with al-Qaida in the attack on 9/11? We don't know." Hethen claimed that he "probably" had more information than the commission,but has so far refused to provide anything to the commission other thanmore insults.The President was even more brazen. He dismissed all questions about hisstatements by saying "The reason I keep insisting that there was arelationship between Iraq and Saddam and al-Qaida, because there was arelationship between Iraq and al-Qaida." He provided no evidence.Friends of the administration tried mightily to rehabilitate theircherished but shattered linkage. John Lehman, one of the Republicans onthe commission, offered what sounded like new evidence that a Saddamhenchman had attended an al-Qaida meeting. But within hours, thecommissions files yielded definitive evidence that it was another man witha similar name -- ironically capturing the near-miss quality of Bush'sentire symbolic argument.They have such an overwhelming political interest in sustaining the beliefin the minds of the American people that Hussein was in partnership withbin Laden that they dare not admit the truth lest they look like completefools for launching our country into a reckless, discretionary war againsta nation that posed no immediate threat to us whatsoever. But the damagethey have done to our country is not limited to misallocation of militaryeconomic political resources. Whenever a chief executive spends prodigiousamounts of energy convincing people of lies, he damages the fabric ofdemocracy, and the belief in the fundamental integrity of ourself-government.Link to Post - Back to Top 64.180.161.172 botAdministratormember is offline Joined: Nov 2004Posts: 4,324Re: Democracy Itself Is In Grave Danger« Reply #3 on Jun 25, 2004, 1:38am »--------------------------------------------------------------------------------That creates a need for control over the flood of bad news, bad policiesand bad decisions also explains their striking attempts to control newscoverage.To take the most recent example, Vice President Cheney was clearly readyto do battle with the news media when he went on CNBC earlier this week toattack news coverage of the 9/11 commission's conclusion that Iraq did notwork with al-Qaida. He lashed out at the New York Times for having thenerve to print a headline saying the 9/11 commission "finds no Qaeda-IraqTie" -- a clear statement of the obvious -- and said there is no"fundamental split here now between what the president said and what thecommission said." He tried to deny that he had personally been responsiblefor helping to create the false impression of linkage between al-Qaida andIraq.Ironically, his interview ended up being fodder for "The Daily Show WithJon Stewart." Stewart played Cheney's outright denial that he had eversaid that representatives of al-Qaida and Iraqi intelligence met inPrague. Then Stewart froze Cheney's image and played the exact video clipin which Cheney had indeed directly claimed linkage between the two,catching him on videotape in a lie. At that point Stewart said, addressinghimself to Cheney's frozen image on the television screen, "It's my dutyto inform you that your pants are on fire."Dan Rather says that post-9/11 patriotism has stifled journalists fromasking government officials "the toughest of the tough questions." Ratherwent so far as to compare administration efforts to intimidate the pressto "necklacing" in apartheid South Africa, while acknowledging it as "anobscene comparison." "The fear is that you will be necklaced here (in theU.S.), you will have a flaming tire of lack of patriotism put around yourneck," Rather explained. It was CBS, remember, that withheld the AbuGhraib photographs from the American people for two weeks at the requestof the Bush administration.Donald Rumsfeld has said that criticism of the administration's policy"makes it complicated and more difficult" to fight the war. CNN'sChristiane Amanpour said on CNBC last September, "I think the press wasmuzzled and I think the press self-muzzled. I'm sorry to say but certainlytelevision, and perhaps to a certain extent my station, was intimidated bythe Administration."The administration works closely with a network of "rapid response"digital Brown Shirts who work to pressure reporters and their editors for"undermining support for our troops." Paul Krugman, the New York Timescolumnist, was one of the first journalists to regularly expose thepresident's consistent distortions of the facts. Krugman writes, "Let'snot overlook the role of intimidation. After 9/11, if you were thinking ofsaying anything negative of the President ... you had to expect right-wingpundits and publications to do all they could to ruin your reputation.Bush and Cheney are spreading purposeful confusion while punishingreporters who stand in the way. It is understandably difficult forreporters and journalistic institutions to resist this pressure, which, inthe case of individual journalists, threatens their livelihoods, and inthe case of the broadcasters can lead to other forms of economicretribution. But resist they must, because without a press able to report"without fear or favor" our democracy will disappear.Recently, the media has engaged in some healthy self-criticism of the wayit allowed the White House to mislead the public into war under falsepretenses. We are dependent on the media, especially the broadcast media,to never let this happen again. We must help them resist this pressure foreveryone's sake, or we risk other wrong-headed decisions based upon falseand misleading impressions.We are left with an unprecedented, high-intensity conflict every singleday between the ideological illusions upon which this administration'spolicies have been based and the reality of the world in which theAmerican people live their lives.When you boil it all down to precisely what went wrong with the Bush Iraqpolicy, it is actually fairly simple: he adopted an ideologically drivenview of Iraq that was tragically at odds with reality. Everything that hasgone wrong is in one way or another the result of a spectacular andviolent clash between the bundle of misconceptions that he gulliblyconsumed and the all-too-painful reality that our troops and contractorsand diplomats and taxpayers have encountered. Of course, there have beenseveral other collisions between President Bush's ideology and America'sreality. To take the most prominent example, the transformation of a $5trillion surplus into a $4 trillion deficit is in its own way just asspectacular a miscalculation as the Iraq war.But there has been no more bizarre or troubling manifestation of howseriously off track this President's policies have taken America than thetwo profound shocks to our nation's conscience during the last month.First came the extremely disturbing pictures that document strange formsof physical and sexual abuse -- and even torture and murder -- by some ofour soldiers against people they captured as prisoners in Iraq. And then,the second shock came just last week, with strange and perverted legalmemoranda from inside the administration, which actually sought to justifytorture and to somehow provide a legal rationale for bizarre and sadisticactivities conducted in the name of the American people, which, accordingto any reasonable person, would be recognized as war crimes. In makingtheir analysis, the administration lawyers concluded that the President,whenever he is acting in his role as commander in chief, is above andimmune from the "rule of law." At least we don't have to guess what ourfounders would have to say about this bizarre and un-American theory.By the middle of this week, the uproar caused by the disclosure of thislegal analysis had forced the administration to claim they were throwingthe memo out and it was, "irrelevant and overbroad." But no one in theadministration has said that the reasoning was wrong. And in fact, a DOJspokesman says they stand by the tortured definition of torture. Inaddition the broad analysis regarding the commander-in-chief powers hasnot been disavowed. And the view of the memo -- that it was withincommander-in-chief's power to order any interrogation techniques necessaryto extract information -- most certainly contributed to the atmospherethat led to the atrocities committed against the Iraqis at Abu Ghraib. Wealso know that President Bush rewarded the principle author of this legalmonstrosity with a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals. President Bush,meanwhile, continues to place the blame for the horrific consequences ofhis morally obtuse policies on the young privates and corporals andsergeants who may well be culpable as individuals for their actions, butwho were certainly not responsible for the policies which set up the BushGulag and led to America's strategic catastrophe in Iraq.I call on the administration to disclose all its interrogation policies,including those used by the military in Iraq and Afghanistan and thoseemployed by the CIA at its secret detention centers outside the U.S., aswell as all the analyses related to the adoption of those policies.Link to Post - Back to Top 64.180.161.172 botAdministratormember is offline Joined: Nov 2004Posts: 4,324Re: Democracy Itself Is In Grave Danger« Reply #4 on Jun 25, 2004, 1:39am »--------------------------------------------------------------------------------The Bush administration's objective of establishing U.S. domination overany potential adversary led to the hubristic, tragic miscalculation of theIraq war, a painful adventure marked by one disaster after another basedon one mistaken assumption after another. But the people who paid theprice have been the U.S. soldiers trapped over there and the Iraqis inprison. The top-heavy focus on dominance as a goal for the U.S. role inthe world is exactly paralleled in their aspiration for the role of thepresident to be completely dominant in the constitutional system. Ourfounders understood even better than Lord Acton the inner meaning of hisaphorism that power corrupts and absolutely power corrupts absolutely. Thegoal of dominance necessitates a focus on power. Ironically, all of theirdidactic messages about how democracies don't invade other nations fell ontheir own deaf ears. The pursuit of dominance in foreign and strategicpolicy led the bush administration to ignore the United nations, doserious damage to our alliances in the world, violate international lawand risk the hatred of the rest of the world. The seductive exercise ofunilateral power has led this president to interpret his powers under theconstitution in a way that would have been the worst nightmare of ourframers.And the kind of unilateral power he imagines is fool's gold in any case.Just as its pursuit in Mesopotamia has led to tragic consequences for oursoldiers, the Iraqi people, our alliances, everything we think isimportant, in the same way the pursuit of a new interpretation of thepresidency that weakens the Congress, courts and civil society is not goodfor either the presidency or the rest of the nation.If the Congress becomes an enfeebled enabler to the executive, and thecourts become known for political calculations in their decisions, thenthe country suffers. The kinds of unnatural, undemocratic activities inwhich this administration has engaged, in order to aggrandize power, haveincluded censorship of scientific reports, manipulation of budgetarystatistics, silencing dissent, and ignoring intelligence. Although therehave been other efforts by other presidents to encroach on the legitimateprerogatives of Congress and courts, there has never been this kind ofsystematic abuse of the truth and institutionalization of dishonesty as aroutine part of the policy process.Two hundred and twenty years ago, John Adams wrote, in describing one ofAmerica's most basic founding principles, "The executive shall neverexercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them ... to theend it may be a government of laws and not of men."The last time we had a president who had the idea that he was above thelaw was when Richard Nixon told an interviewer, "When the president doesit, that means that it is not illegal ... If the president, for example,approves something, approves an action because of national security, or,in this case, because of a threat to internal peace and order, ofsignificant order, then the president's decision in this instance is onethat enables those who carry it out to carry it out without violating thelaw."Fortunately for our country, Nixon was forced to resign as presidentbefore he could implement his outlandish interpretation of theConstitution, but not before his defiance of the Congress and the courtscreated a serious constitutional crisis.The two top Justice Department officials under President Nixon, ElliotRichardson and William Ruckelshaus, turned out to be men of greatintegrity, and even though they were loyal Republicans, they were moreloyal to the Constitution and resigned on principle rather than implementwhat they saw as abuses of power by Nixon. Then Congress, also on abipartisan basis, bravely resisted Nixon's abuse of power and launchedimpeachment proceedings.In some ways, our current president is actually claiming significantlymore extra-constitutional power, vis-à-vis Congress and the courts, thanNixon did. For example, Nixon never claimed that he could imprisonAmerican citizens indefinitely without charging them with a crime andwithout letting them see a lawyer or notify their families. And this time,the attorney general, John Ashcroft, is hardly the kind of man who wouldresign on principle to impede an abuse of power. In fact, whenever thereis an opportunity to abuse power in this administration, Ashcroft seems tobe leading the charge. And it is Ashcroft who picked the staff lawyers atJustice responsible for the embarrassing memos justifying and enablingtorture.Moreover, in sharp contrast to the courageous 93rd Congress that saved thecountry from Richard Nixon's sinister abuses, the current Congress hasvirtually abdicated its constitutional role to serve as an independent andcoequal branch of government.Instead, this Republican-led Congress is content, for the most part, totake orders from the president on what they vote for and what they don'tvote for. The Republican leaders of the House and Senate have even startedblocking Democrats from attending conference committee meetings, wherelegislation takes its final form, and instead, they let the president'sstaff come to the meetings and write key parts of the laws for them. (Cometo think of it, the decline and lack of independence shown by thisCongress would shock our founders more than anything else, because theybelieved that the power of the Congress was the most important check andbalance against the unhealthy exercise of too much power by the Executivebranch.)Link to Post - Back to Top 64.180.161.172 botAdministratormember is offline Joined: Nov 2004Posts: 4,324Re: Democracy Itself Is In Grave Danger« Reply #5 on Jun 25, 2004, 1:39am »--------------------------------------------------------------------------------This administration has not been content just to reduce the Congress tosubservience. It has also engaged in unprecedented secrecy, denying theAmerican people access to crucial information with which they might holdgovernment officials accountable for their actions, and a systematiceffort to manipulate and intimidate the media into presenting a morefavorable image of the administration to the American people.Listen to what U.S. News and World Report has to say about their secrecy:"The Bush administration has quietly but efficiently dropped a shroud ofsecrecy across many critical operations of the federal government --cloaking its own affairs from scrutiny and removing from the public domainimportant information on health, safety, and environmental matters."Here are just a few examples, and for each one, you have to ask, what arethey hiding, and why are they hiding it?More than 6,000 documents have been removed by the Bush administrationfrom governmental Web sites. To cite only one example, a document on theEPA Web site giving citizens crucial information on how to identifychemical hazards to their families. Some have speculated that theprinciple threat to the Bush administration is a threat by the chemicalhazards if the information remains available to American citizens.To head off complaints from our nation's governors over how much theyreceive under federal programs, the Bush administration simply stoppedprinting the primary state budget report.To muddy the clear consensus of the scientific community on globalwarming, the White House directed major changes and deletions to an EPAreport that were so egregious that the agency said it was too embarrassedto use the language.They've kept hidden from view Cheney's ultra-secret energy task force.They have fought a pitched battle in the courts for more than three yearsto continue denying the American people the ability to know which specialinterests and lobbyists advised with Vice President Cheney on the designof the new laws.And when mass layoffs became too embarrassing they simply stoppedpublishing the regular layoff report that economists and others have beenreceiving for decades. For this administration, the truth hurts, when thetruth is available to the American people. They find bliss in theignorance of the people. What are they hiding, and why are they hiding it?In the end, for this administration, it is all about power. This lie aboutthe invented connection between al-Qaida and Iraq was and is the key tojustifying the current ongoing constitutional power grab by the president.So long as their big flamboyant lie remains an established fact in thepublic's mind, President Bush will be seen as justified in taking forhimself the power to make war on his whim. He will be seen as justified inacting to selectively suspend civil liberties -- again on his personaldiscretion -- and he will continue to intimidate the press and therebydistort the political reality experienced by the American people duringhis bid for re-election.War is lawful violence, but even in its midst we acknowledge the need forrules. We know that in our wars there have been descents from thesestandards, often the result of spontaneous anger arising out of thepassion of battle. But we have never before, to my knowledge, had asituation in which the framework for this kind of violence has beencreated by the president, nor have we had a situation where these thingswere mandated by directives signed by the secretary of defense, as it isalleged, and supported by the national security advisor.Always before, we could look to the chief executive as the point fromwhich redress would come and law be upheld. That was one of the greatprides of our country: humane leadership, faithful to the law. What wehave now, however, is the result of decisions taken by a president and anadministration for whom the best law is NO law, so long as law threatensto constrain their political will. And where the constraints of law cannotbe prevented or eliminated, then they maneuver it to be weakened byevasion, by delay, by hair-splitting, by obstruction, and by failure toenforce on the part of those sworn to uphold the law.In these circumstances, we need investigation of the facts under oath, andin the face of penalties for evasion and perjury. We need investigation byan aroused Congress whose bipartisan members know they stand before thejudgment of history. We cannot depend upon a debased Department of Justicegiven over to the hands of zealots. "Congressional oversight" and "specialprosecution" are words that should hang in the air. If our honor as anation is to be restored, it is not by allowing the mighty to shieldthemselves by bringing the law to bear against their pawns: it is bybringing the law to bear against the mighty themselves. Our dignity andhonor as a nation never came from our perfection as a society or as apeople: it came from the belief that in the end, this was a country whichwould pursue justice as the compass pursues the pole: that although wemight deviate, we would return and find our path. This is what we must nowdo.
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