Thursday, February 16, 2006

Heir of Arrogance

Written by The Cranky Liberal from Bring It On!

I have a five year old boy at home. When we play games together, he likes to make up rules as we go along. Most of the time they are to correct a “flaw” in the game that has him on the losing side. After a while the game can become a Byzantine maze of “rules” that no longer bear any resemblance to what we were supposed to be playing.

That’s OK when your a five year old kid.
That’s not OK when you are the President of the United States.

We have waxed eloquently (and not so eloquently) at Bring It On! for a long time now about this White Houses abuse of power. There is an undeniable pattern of behaviour that show in no uncertain terms that this President, and his entire administration (especially Dick Cheney) feel that they are a law onto themselves. Like my son, they go to elaborate lengths to justify their abuse of power. More often than not, the rationale boils down to “Because I’m the President, damn it.”

The expansion of powers that this President has sought is almost inconceivable even for a war time president (and, with all due respect, this is not World War II, and al Qaida is not Nazi Germany). There is a real sense that this President believes that he is the head of the Government, and that as Commander in Chief he has the authority to trump all other branches of government to fight terrorism. As George Will puts it:

Besides, terrorism is not the only new danger of this era. Another is the administration’s argument that because the president is commander in chief, he is the “sole organ for the nation in foreign affairs.” That non sequitur is refuted by the Constitution’s plain language, which empowers Congress to ratify treaties, declare war, fund and regulate military forces, and make laws “necessary and proper” for the execution of all presidential powers . Those powers do not include deciding that a law — FISA, for example — is somehow exempted from the presidential duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

The administration, in which mere obduracy sometimes serves as political philosophy, pushes the limits of assertion while disdaining collaboration. This faux toughness is folly, given that the Supreme Court, when rejecting President Harry S Truman’s claim that his inherent powers as commander in chief allowed him to seize steel mills during the Korean War, held that presidential authority is weakest when it clashes with Congress

Weakest when it clashes with Congress? Well what does the Supreme Court know anyhow? Don’t they know their role?

Let’s be clear, it isn’t just breaking the law regarding domestic spying that I am referring to. Indeed if this were only about illegal spying, one might be able to rationalize it in the name of national security. No this is about the sheer arrogance displayed by the White House. The disdain for any oversite. The ruthlessness of their ongoing effort to maximize executive authority and minimize transparency. Just look at how they treat those who dare to disagree with them.

Like maybe Joe Wilson.

A more perfect example of the punitive nature of this expansion of power you could not find. We all know the story. Ambassador Wilson disagrees with Dick Cheney. Scooter Libby, acting on authority from Dick Cheney does a hatchet job on Wilson’s wife (how manly of him) leaking classified information and blowing the cover of a CIA operative.

What we didn’t know until yesterday’s edited and controlled interview with Faux News was that Dick suddenly had the power to declassify information on his own thanks to Executive Order 13292 (signed in March, 2003). As Byron York of the National Review calls it

a little-known but enormously consequential expansion of vice-presidential power that has come about as a result of the Bush administration’s war on terror.

Now we see what Mr. Cheney does with such power.


We see it in the signing statements the President uses to subvert the will of Congress and the American people over subjects as black and white as torture.


We see it in the refusal to release documents related to John Bolton and Harriet Miers simply because they didn’t feel they need to listen to the Senate.


We see it in the appointment of cronies in place of competence in crucial areas of government (FEMA anyone?) at a rate that would make even Andrew Jackson blush.


How defiant and angry they were over the leaks of “secret” prisons, illegal spying, or the new Abu Ghraib photos. How they always seek to blame the messenger.

Arrogance, arrogance, arrogance.

Mr. Bush is a spoiled and indulged little boy. He is the Paris Hilton President. He has no interest in following the rules, only his agenda. He is my five year old son changing the rules to fit his need.

Like my son, the end result is something that no longer resembles the game we were playing. Sadly for us, this “game” is called Democracy. It’s up to us to make sure that America is not the loser.