Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Recommended Reading

I don't normally publish "go read that" pieces, but two articles are floating around the infosphere that everyone ought to be aware of.

First is a piece by Judy Bachrach in Vanity Fair. "Washington Babylon" chronicles the shenanigans of Randy "Duke" Cunningham, the Vietnam era Navy fighter ace who abused his position on the House defense appropriations committee to make himself rich and subsequently went to prison for it.

Second is a story in The New Yorker by Jane Mayer. Mayer has been tracking the efforts of all the President's lawyers to subvert the constitution for quite some time. This time, she goes into detail about the role of Dick Cheney aide David Addington in subverting division of power in a so-called republic unseen since the days of Julius Caesar.


  1. The piece by Jane Mayer is very good. I was particularly pleased to see that she gives both sides on Addington, devoting a fair amount of space to what people who know him say about him.

    In a way, what his friends said make things even more scary, however. Addington is no doubt a bright guy, and from this I take it he's also a decent person. So I assume rather than being purely political about all these issues, he's a true believer. I think that's often harder to deal with than someone who is simply out for political gain.

    There's no question in my mind that the NSA wiretapping is illegal (and I think it would be illegal even IF Congress authorized it). There's also no question that the Bush administration's idea of executive power extends well beyond what is provided to them in the Constitution. As one person interviewed in the article notes, the Executive is subject to the laws of Congress (which is generally true, though not an absolute - the Executive is a coordinate branch after all, and Congress is limited in laws they can pass directed at that branch).

    It will be very interesting to see whether this administration's attempts to set precedent do actually result in an expansion of executive powers over the course of the near future. Will the next administration rely on the activities of this one to support claims of broad power, or will they let things move back to where they were before? I suspect part of the answer will depend on whether the executive (whether Dem or GOP) is dealing with their own party with a majority in Congress. Over time, things will be righted, I think, but it would be best to have that happen sooner rather than later.

  2. Well, hard to say. It seems to me that Congress will have to take action to limit those powers prior to the next President being elected.

    Of course, we know what that will take.

  3. Yeah - a good outcome in November. I've seen some signs we may get it. The Democratic challenger (Claire McCaskill) for Senate here is ahead of the GOP incumbent by a decent margin. The sad thing about it is that the challenger is crooked (she lives in a fancy mansion on money her husband makes turning nursing homes into dumps by squeezing money of them - McCaskill was supposed to be responsible for auditing these nursing homes as State auditor, but audits went wat down. Coindicence? The scandal probably cost her the governorship here) - but at this point I prefer to see her win just to get some balance back into Congress. Kind of a hold your nose while you vote situation.

  4. Anonymous10:29 AM

    Hillary Clinton is president. The Democrats control congress. The executive branch keeps the Republican minority out of the loop, and makes aggressive arguments to expand its powers.

    Does anyone think the Republicans would actually go along with that? That they would act "principled" ? Never. It's all politics.

  5. Right now, what I think I'd like to see would be for the Dems to take back Congress this year and a principled Republican take the White House in '08.

    The question is, can a principled candidate win the GOP nomination?

  6. Anonymous11:37 AM

    Actually, that's pretty much what I would like to see Jeff. I don't think the Dems will have done enough work to have a solid foundation for long term electoral victory by 2008, so better to have Congress and let the Republicans try and make something of this Iraq mess. Just as long as we have divided government; that is key.

    Sadly I think principleness is largely relative. The only Repub I like is Chuck Hagel, but I doubt he is running.

  7. I was thinking about Hagel myself, but as you say, I doubt he's running and even if he did, I doubt he'd get the nomination.

    A lot depends on whether the GOP wants to come out and say "we've changed direction."

    Go figure the odds of that happening.

  8. I'm with anonymous on the divided government. Whichever party wins the White House in '08, I prefer to see the opposite party in control of Congress.