Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Emperor's Old Clothes

Harry's out and Fitzgeralds' indictments should be in shortly. The American political scene is on the cusp of a profound shift. As Fallen Monk and I discussed in an earlier post, there is reason to be apprehensive about Mister Bush at the helm of state without his chief handlers around to tell him which way to steer.

But I think there's a major upside to Bush being stripped of his sidemen. It will give Congress the opportunity to reclaim its constitutional authority and restore the balance of power in the Federal government.


As I'm overly fond of saying, the neocons didn't invent anything new; they just expanded old things to neo-proportions. So while they managed to consolidate more power in the office of the president than I've seen in my lifetime, the expansion of executive authority didn't start with them.

We can pin the post-modern presidential power phenomenon to some time around the beginning of the nuclear arms race, when for the sake of national security the president was authorized to respond in mass to a nuclear strike without the requirement of asking Congress for a formal declaration of war. Then we engaged in an undeclared conventional war in Korea under Truman, and a second one in Vietnam under Johnson.

Post-Vietnam, Congress put limits on a president's ability to conduct a prolonged undeclared war, largely by restructuring the military in a way that put sustained logistic support in the hands of the guard and reserves and limiting the amount of time a president could deploy them overseas without Congressional approval.


I first sniffed a bad odor about the Bush administration when Dick Cheney started talking about "restoring the office of the president." (I can't remember off hand if he said that during the 2000 campaign or shortly after the election, but it was early on.)

The hairs on the back of my neck stood up when Mister Bush said he would not approve funding for stem cell research. Does he not understand that funding appropriations have to come from Congress? I wondered. Did he mean to say he'd veto a funding bill for stem cell research? Does he understand the difference between passing an appropriation and vetoing one? Today, I conclude that no, he didn't understand the difference. I'm not real confident he understands it now.


I got worried about the time Mister Bush rolled out his Orwellian "Axis of Evil" mantra, and started looking into just what the Project for the New American Century had been up to while the Democrats held the White House.

A quick look at the signatories of PNAC's key documents told me we were headed for trouble: Cheney, Perle, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Bolton, and a host of other latter day imperialists who now held key positions in the Bush administration.

But Congress still seemed to have things under control, and in its early months, Mister Bush and his administration were looking like they were a fright wig away from being total Bozos.


Then 9-11 happened. And the bullhorn moment. Okay, I thought, the guy's growing into his job.

Afghanistan was an appropriate response, and the war went miraculously well.

Until the Iraq yak started.

As the debate over Iraq grew, some GOP Congressional Bozo went on TV and said, "Mister Bush has declared war on terrorism."

Huh? Mister Bush didn't have the constitutional authority to "declare war." Was anybody going to wave the b.s. flag on that one?

Well, Congress did, eventually. But in doing so, they fell into the neocons' trap.

Okay, the administration said, we'll let Congress vote on whether or not to let us invade Iraq. They presented Congress with a bill that would allow Mister Bush to commit active duty, guard, and reserve forces wherever and whenever he wanted to for as long as he wanted to do it.

And what was anyone in Congress to do in a time of national crisis? Say, "No, the president is not authorized to defend our country?"

So they wrote him a blank check to wage undeclared war.

Then Mister Bush confronted them with the Patriot Act, and Congress passed it for him, suspending major portions of the bill of rights without anyone asking, "Hey, doesn't this require a constitutional amendment?"

And when Mister Bush had his lawyer 'Berto write him a note that said he could ignore constitutional and treaty law on treatment of prisoners without having to ask anyone for permission, nobody batted an eye.


Hopefully for America, it's days of having an Emperor in the oval office are about to end.

And hopefully, America will remember that it needs to keep the executive branch of government in its box for as long as…

Let's see. How long was it between the end of Vietnam and the invasion of Iraq?


  1. Will dubya plunge the economy into a full-scale depression in the next 3 years? Will the Iraqi insurgents or an Iraqi civil war drive out the U.S. military? Bush is stupid enough to commit those errors and that will be fatal to his presidency and (temporarily?) cripple America.

    His admin is in deep trouble and I don't know how long he can stand the pressure. If his presidency goes into freefall, there will be a power vaccuum until someone (the legislature?) takes action. Could the situation become so critical that the GOP decides to impeach him? Or invoke the 25th amendment?

  2. If Congress steps up to the plate, they may as well leave a "weak" Dubya where he is.