Friday, July 20, 2007

Rethinking Justice

Ill: The Worried Shrimp

Thank you, Li'l Bush! This just might be the impetus the country needs!

Whoa Nelly! Today's news (WaPo) is absolutely astounding.
Bush, never famous for his logical precision (he instead thinks with his anti-intellectual &~ as it turns out ~ dyspeptic gut) & has, just maybe, pushed his "privileges" so far that even the most deluded, distracted, & similarly anti-intellectual Americans can't fail to miss it. Proving what the rest of us have long suspected ~ that, even more so than Nixon, the man is his own worst enemy. With the *minor* distinction that Nixon's delusional arrogance was epic, therefore tragic in the Greek sense, in scale, not least because he was on some level aware of it, while George's is merely buffoonish, because ~ all indications are ~ George is not aware of it in the least.

Somewhat like off-the mark comparisons of Anna Nicole Smith to Marilyn Monroe ~ the former was just a listless imitation of the latter. But I digress.
Your Demon has long thought that Bush's & the Neocons' genius, if history will at all be kind enough to remember them in those terms, may well be that they & he, as their willing posterboy & spokescowboy, pushed American constitutional government to its breaking point & thereby inadvertently forced all of the rest of us to rethink the entire project, & I don't mean law & legal things (boring, & just the tools), but where America's soul is located in terms of what it means to be America, & how we will treat our own population as well as our position in the world.
In today's news we see that Bush, in the ongoing effort to hide the partisan purge of U.S. Attorneys from their posts, has come out & declared the broadest assertion of executive privilege ever ~ in effect announcing to the country what we've all come to suspect ~ the Department of Justice (traditionally above politix) is being treated under Bushco as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the GOP, & nobody there can be made to investigate the executive branch or force it to heel. Of course, they say this knowing that the in the D.C. court will foolishly back them.
"Bush administration officials unveiled a bold new assertion of executive authority yesterday in the dispute over the firing of nine U.S. attorneys, saying that the Justice Department will never be allowed to pursue contempt charges initiated by Congress against White House officials once the president has invoked executive privilege.
"The position presents serious legal and political obstacles for congressional Democrats, who have begun laying the groundwork for contempt proceedings against current and former White House officials in order to pry loose information about the dismissals.

"Under federal law, a statutory contempt citation by the House or Senate must be submitted to the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, 'whose duty it shall be to bring the matter before the grand jury for its action.'
"But administration officials argued yesterday that Congress has no power to force a U.S. attorney to pursue contempt charges in cases, such as the prosecutor firings, in which the president has declared that testimony or documents are protected from release by executive privilege. Officials pointed to a Justice Department legal opinion during the Reagan administration, which made the same argument in a case that was never resolved by the courts.
"'A U.S. attorney would not be permitted to bring contempt charges or convene a grand jury in an executive privilege case,' said a senior official, who said his remarks reflect a consensus within the administration. 'And a U.S. attorney wouldn't be permitted to argue against the reasoned legal opinion that the Justice Department provided. No one should expect that to happen.'
"The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly, added: 'It has long been understood that, in circumstances like these, the constitutional prerogatives of the president would make it a futile and purely political act for Congress to refer contempt citations to U.S. attorneys.'

"Mark J. Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University who has written a book on executive-privilege issues, called the administration's stance 'astonishing.'
"'That's a breathtakingly broad view of the president's role in this system of separation of powers,' Rozell said. "What this statement is saying is the president's claim of executive privilege trumps all."
I agree with Rozell; moreover, I think it's time to remove the Justice Department from the executive branch, as Waxman alludes later in the article. Seems that Republicans & Democrats in the White House have been dancing around the "executive privilege" argument for decades ~ 1st asserting it, & rather than provoke a full-blown Constitutional crisis on the matter of separation of powers, backed down, but as this Administration shows, it's never too late to resort to an argument a previous (more popular) Republican president contemplated making. (As long as it's not Nixon ~ too close for comfort.)
I also have no doubt that the triple-headed creature that is the Bush-Cheney-Gonzales mindmeld will, unike the more sensible & honest men before them, gladly put a torch to the Constitution rather than have their machinations exposed.
And so, we're forced to rethink whether trusting the executive to enforce laws, potentially against themselves, was ever a very good idea. Maybe in a grander America, where gentleman-politicians could be counted upon to behave honorably & in gentlemanly fashion, at least with respect to each other, reliance on self-enforcement & the overarching notion of a Constitutional government was sufficient. No more, apparently.
Bush has not just exposed the cracks in the facade, but has purposely driven & hammered forcefully upon an enormous wedge in his quest to widen them. Thank him, y'all. I maintain he's doing we progressives a huge favor. The uglier & more hateful George & his neocons make themselves ~ cartoonishly so, & they've been all about just that for 6 years ~ the easier it will be to rid ourselves of them. They're doing all the heavy lifting themselves.
What I worry about now is that the weak-kneed entrenched Democrats might be too comfortable with the status-quo to be up to conducting an overhaul that is so very clearly necessary.

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