If the Democrats manage to win one or both houses of Congress come November, I hope they don't blow the victory by getting bogged down in political window dressing. Here's my "top ten" wish list of what I want to see a Democratic controlled Congress accomplish in its first six months months.
1. Fix the Patriot Act or axe it.
Does any one person in this country know what the Patriot Act actually says? The original version passed by the House--HR 361 RDS--is a compendium of changes to other laws, and updates to the Act are a compendium of changes to the original. It would take the work required of a doctoral thesis to hunt down the true implications of the Act on individual rights. We shouldn't have laws so complex that the average citizen can't understand them. If our elected representatives can't produce a version of the Act that the rest of us can understand, that means they don't understand it either, in which case what the hell were they doing when they voted for it?
If they can't produce a simplified version of the Patriot that they and their constituents can readily absorb, then they should repeal the thing entirely.
2. Impeach Donald Rumsfeld.
Article I of the Constitution gives the House of Representatives the "sole power of impeachment" and the Senate the "sole power to try all impeachments." Judgments in impeachment cases "shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust or profit under the United States."
That's good enough for the likes of Rumsfeld. There's no need to put him in a cell and chain him to the ceiling, and break his legs, and water board him, and sic attack dogs on him, and put a woman's panties on his head, and lock him in a cold room, and cover him in feces, and put him in a dog pile naked with the rest of his neocon cronies, and force him to pleasure himself, and rape him with a Chemlite. All that and much more is waiting for him in the next world.
Article II states that, "The President, Vice President and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors."
Among Rumsfeld's many sins, treason and bribery might be difficult to justify in impeachment proceedings. Being an arrogant jerk isn't necessarily treasonous. Firing any general who doesn't agree with you and promoting every general who does isn't necessarily bribery. But any Secretary of Defense who goes to war without a post-hostilities plan, as Rumsfeld did, has committed a crime as high as a crime of office can get.
3. Impeach Alberto Gonzales.
What Rumsfeld did to the Iraq Gonzales did to the Constitution. As both White House Counsel and Attorney General, Gonzales was a key player in creating a virtually unchecked executive branch of government. Almost every extra-constitutional stunt Bush has pulled was done on "authority" of a legal position written by or under the supervision of Gonzales.
One might argue that you can't impeach someone for doing his job, but lying to the Senate Judiciary Committee--as Gonzales did regarding the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program--isn't part of anybody's job description. It's a high crime called "perjury."
4. Repeal the Military Commissions Act of 2006.
By passing this bill, Congress handed Mister Bush dictatorial powers. If it's ever challenged in the Supreme Court, there's a fair chance it will be declared unconstitutional, but you never know with this Supreme Court. And why put everybody through the bother, time and expense of a lengthy court procedure? Just strike the bill down.
5. Revise the War Powers Resolution of 1973.
The War Powers Resolution allows a president to commit troops to combat for up to 90 days before he has to get statutory authorization or a declaration of war from Congress. As this administration has illustrated, that's entirely too much latitude for an executive with a war-centric foreign policy to have.
I'd like to strip all authority for a president to commit troops to combat overseas, but given our global presence, I just don't think that's realistic. Things will happen in the future that require immediate military action by the executive, but in 90 days, a president like the one we have now could start a full-scale world war from which we might never extract ourselves.
Shrink that three-month window down to two weeks. That gives a president sufficient time to respond to a no-notice crisis that requires a short duration air operation, an embassy evacuation, and so on. But if he wants to do anything that might conceivably take longer than fourteen days, he'll have to go to Congress first. So if this president decides he wants to start doing blockade ops against Korea or Iran, he'll have to get a buy in from the legislature.
And oh, the new resolution has to contain language that prevents a president from going around Congress by acting under authority of a UN resolution. UN resolutions are fine and dandy, but they aren't a substitute for legislation by Congress.
(Part II will discuss treaties, election reform, Iraq and more.)
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at ePluribus Media and Pen and Sword.