Friday, June 29, 2007

The Opinionator

June 28, 2007, 4:59 pm
Will Bush Get ‘Saved’ Again?
By Chris Suellentrop
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David Corn, Washington editor for The Nation, predicts on his personal blog that the Bush administration will end not with a whimper but a bang: “With Democrats comparing Bush to Nixon — which is not fair…to Nixon (he was never as imaginative in his constitutional interpretations as Cheney) — these constitutional confrontations are probably heading toward the Supreme Court. Which means Bush could end his presidency much like he began it: being saved by justices appointed by him or his father.”

At the newly redesigned and reloaded-with-contributors group blog The American Scene, Noah Millman speculates about the “unpredictable” foreign policy of a President McCain: “I would anticipate at least one, and possibly multiple ‘hail Mary’ gambits. I would not be at all shocked if McCain attempted a serious rapprochement with Iran. I would also not be shocked if McCain got us into a war with China.”

Is it July 2007 yet? It’s never too early for the veepstakes! The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder and NBC News’s Chuck Todd publish their monthly National Journal presidential rankings. Their take on why Mike Huckabee Fever has yet to light out for the territories: “We still can’t figure out why this guy is so bad at organizational politics,” they write. “The organization doesn’t match Huck’s national potential. But move over, Tim Pawlenty. There’s a new VP front-runner.”

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June 28, 2007, 10:01 am
Flout of Office Reply
By Chris Suellentrop
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If you can’t defund him, just impeach him: Some opponents of the idea of impeaching President Bush (such as Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson) base their opposition on the frightening notion of President Dick Cheney. Writing in Slate, conservative heretic Bruce Fein proposes a solution for that problem: Impeach Cheney. Fein, who was associate deputy attorney general and general counsel of the Federal Communications Commission under President Reagan, writes:


In grasping and exercising presidential powers, Cheney has dulled political accountability and concocted theories for evading the law and Constitution that would have embarrassed King George III. The most recent invention we know of is the vice president’s insistence that an executive order governing the handling of classified information in the executive branch does not reach his office because he also serves as president of the Senate. In other words, the vice president is a unique legislative-executive creature standing above and beyond the Constitution. The House judiciary committee should commence an impeachment inquiry. As Alexander Hamilton advised in the Federalist Papers, an impeachable offense is a political crime against the nation. Cheney’s multiple crimes against the Constitution clearly qualify.

Take the vice president’s preposterous theory that his office is outside the executive branch because it also exercises a legislative function. The same can be said of the president, who also exercises a legislative function in signing or vetoing bills passed by Congress. Under Cheney’s bizarre reasoning, President Bush is not part of his own administration.

Of course, the administration recently declared Cheney’s I-am-an-island legal theory to be, shall we say, inoperative. But Fein cites many other “abuses and excesses” committed by Cheney. An incomplete list:

“Mr. Cheney claimed authority to detain American citizens as enemy combatants indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay on the president’s say-so alone, a frightening power indistinguishable from King Louis XVI’s execrated lettres de cachet that occasioned the storming of the Bastille”; “The vice president initiated kidnappings, secret detentions, and torture in Eastern European prisons of suspected international terrorists”; “Mr. Cheney has championed a presidential power to torture in contravention of federal statutes and treaties”; “He has advocated and authored signing statements that declare the president’s intent to disregard provisions of bills he has signed into law that he proclaims are unconstitutional”; “He concocted the alarming theory that the president may flout any law that inhibits the collection of foreign intelligence, including prohibitions on breaking and entering homes, torture, or assassinations”; and “The vice president has orchestrated the invocation of executive privilege to conceal from Congress secret spying programs to gather foreign intelligence, and their legal justifications.”

Cheney’s “tyrannical attitudes” can be traced to a single source: “his views on secrecy,” says Harper’s Magazine contributor Scott Horton, a New York attorney. Horton writes at No Comment, his Harper’s blog:


Put simply, for Cheney, the public office holder, everything he does must be kept secret from the people. But on the other hand, the ordinary people are entitled to no secrets from him: he can engage in unwarranted wiretapping and surveillance to his heart’s content. And no matter that it’s a violation of federal criminal statutes. Why the office of the Vice President, he thinks, is above the law.

(Dick Cheney would, of course, hardly be the first criminal to hold the office of vice president. Aaron Burr was a murderer. And Spiro Agnew pleaded nolo contendere to charges of tax evasion and money laundering. What distinguishes Dick Cheney is that he is the first vice president to openly engage in criminal acts with total impunity.)

The continuing support among Republicans for Cheney and “Cheneyism” “spotlights a new authoritarian strain in the Republican Party and the conservative movement that is not an ephemeral reaction to 9/11 or a peculiarity of an administration with an especially weak president,” writes Ed Kilgore from his new perch as managing editor of the online publication The Democratic Strategist. “If you pay attention to what the leading candidates for the Republican nomination for president in 2008 are saying about executive powers and anti-terrorism methods, Cheneyism will survive its author and its presidential enabler if the GOP hangs onto the [White] House. And that ought to be a campaign issue for Democrats.”

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