Talk about convenient timing for the Bush administration.
Jammed off the radarscope this week by Ann Coulter's mouth and the demise of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was the squaring off between Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pennsylvania) and Dick Cheney (unofficial master of the universe) over the NSA domestic spying investigation.
CNN and other news outlets reported Thursday that Specter "sent a stinging letter to Vice President Dick Cheney after learning Cheney had lobbied other Republicans on his committee without his knowledge."
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Specter is galled that Cheney's been breaking the legs of other Republican Judiciary Committee members to block subpoenas of phone company executives regarding the NSA domestic surveillance program.
It's difficult to determine whether Specter is actually upset that Cheney has been kneecapping fellow Republicans on Specter's committee, or if he's just upset that Cheney did the kneecapping without telling Specter about it.
Specter's three page letter said, "This was especially perplexing since we both attended the Republican senators caucus lunch yesterday, and I walked directly in front of you on at least two occasions en route from the buffet to my table."
Is Specter more concerned about buffet table protocol or about whether the Bush Administration is tossing Americans' constitutional rights in the trashcan in the name of "plenary" executive powers?
Whatever the case, the result is the same. The White House's claims to "unreviewable," absolute powers will go unchecked as long as the GOP owns the Senate and the House.
Springtime for Dubya
As I discussed last December in Smoke, Mirrors, and War Powers, the administration has consistently based its claims of supreme executive authority on the Constitution and the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by Congress in September 2001 days after the 9/11 attacks.
But the Constitution grants no such wartime authorities to any President. Article II makes him commander in chief--of the military, not the country. And that's it. The Constitution makes no mention of special powers in times of war, declared or undeclared.
Article I gives most of the actual war making powers to Congress.
The AUMF, often referred to as the "blank check," and claimed by the administration to have given young Mister Bush unlimited authority to do darn near anything he wants to the Constitution in the conduct of his war on terror, states that " Nothing in this resolution supercedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution."
The War Powers Resolution, passed in 1973, says "Nothing in this joint resolution…is intended to alter the constitutional authority of the Congress or of the President, or the provision of existing treaties…"
And there's nothing in the Constitution that gives Congress the power to allow Presidents to exceed their constitutional authority.
We know that we can't trust the administration to check its own powers. And since the ultimate arbiter of what constitutes the law of the land is now Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, the Supreme Court has become, for all practical purposes, irrelevant.
And as long as Dick Cheney controls Congress, there's really no discernable difference between the United States in 2006 and, well, name your favorite historical tyranny.
Like Thomas Jefferson, I'd rather not get into heaven than have to go there as a member of a political party. And as I recall, I've only voted for one Democrat--John Kerry--in my entire life.
But I've more than gotten over my aversion to "Hollywood Democrats." For the foreseeable future, any time I have a choice between voting for a Republican or Porky Pig, I'm taking the pig.
This just in:
Glen Greenwald reports on a bill Specter introduced yesterday that, according to WaPo, "…would grant blanket amnesty to anyone who authorized warrantless surveillance under presidential authority, a provision that seems to ensure that no one would be held criminally liable if the current program is found illegal under present law."
Specter's bill would also "…give President Bush the option of seeking a warrant from a special court for an electronic surveillance program such as the one being conducted by the National Security Agency."
So Mister Bush gets an option as to whether he wants to obey the Constitution or not.
Yeah, Senator Specter. Go get 'em, tiger.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his weekday commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.