Monday, July 30, 2007

UnThink

My living memory of the Carter Administration was a very rude man who interrupted Sesame Street twice in one day. I was too young, thankfully, to fully appreciate the lack of intelligence to which we were subject.

Walter Mondale offers an example:
Through his vast government experience, through the friends he had been able to place in key positions and through his considerable political skills, he has been increasingly able to determine the answers to questions put to the president -- because he has been able to determine the questions. It was Cheney who persuaded President Bush to sign an order that denied access to any court by foreign terrorism suspects and Cheney who determined that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to enemy combatants captured in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Rather than subject his views to an established (and rational) vetting process, his practice has been to trust only his immediate staff before taking ideas directly to the president. Many of the ideas that Bush has subsequently bought into have
proved offensive to the values of the Constitution and have been embarrassingly overturned by the courts. The corollary to Cheney's zealous embrace of secrecy is his near total aversion to the notion of accountability. I've never seen a former member of the House of Representatives demonstrate such contempt for Congress -- even when it was controlled by his own party. His insistence on invoking executive privilege to block virtually every congressional request for information has been stupefying -- it's almost as if he denies the legitimacy of
an equal branch of government. Nor does he exhibit much respect for public opinion, which amounts to indifference toward being held accountable by the people who elected him.
Whatever authority a vice president has is derived from the president under whom he serves. There are no powers inherent in the office; they must be delegated by the president. Somehow, not only has Cheney been given vast authority by President Bush -- including, apparently, the entire intelligence portfolio -- but he also pursues his own agenda. The real question is why the president allows this to happen.

Once it becomes clear that the President allows it to happen--that it is, in fact, delegated power from the elected President--where's the extra-constitutionality? If Cheney does not volunteer to obey the polls, Congressional committees, and staff, how is that unconstitutional unaccountability, if he's accountable to the President who assigns him his roles? This smacks of the old Chinese saw that revolt against the Imperial government was necessary to "rescue" the Son of Heaven from his advisors.

Where does the Constitution specify the internal process for floating policy trial balloons? Doesn't a wartime Administration have an obligation to keep tight rein on hypothetical amendments to intelligence operations? Apparently not; apparently a commitment to the constitution requires such measures be floated beyond "immediate staff".

There have not been "many" reversals of the Administration line, and most of those that have been issued by trial courts are still on appeal. Not among them, to my knowledge, is a single reversal of an executive privilege claim by the President--not Cheney, but by Bush covering Cheney's office. Where's the judicial support for Mondale's outrage over Cheney's secrecy?

It's just more of the circular reasoning of BDS: What Bush & Co. are up to is dangerously wrong, because it's being done by Bush & Co.

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