2005-12-19

The Madness of King George

I have always been under the impression that Americans bow to no one. Their history is deeply rooted in their rebellion against the British empire and their rejection of the British throne. The US constitution, forged in this period of time, reflects the desire on the part of the writers to do away with a corrupt dictatorship. The balancing of executive, legislative and judicial powers is certainly one of the greatest triumphs of the Republic's early days.

It is supremely ironic, therefore, that the executive branch of government - the President - has become essentially a new-age monarchy under George W. Bush. For all America's democratic and legislative laws, Americans generally support the cult of the individual. Thus, those with positions of power are given reverential treatment, whether they are politicians or corporate CEOs. Whenever I catch "Nightly Business Report" (NPR) there is often an interview with a high-paid CEO about his company and his plans and so on. What is striking is the deferential nature of the interviewers - apart from calling the CEO "sir", there is no attempt to ask deeper, more probing questions or to question the man's assumptions (it usually is a man). Despite being affiliated with PBS, NPR is quite business friendly.

This leadership cult is also present in the church ministry books that I sometimes see in Christian bookshops. The modern church pastor is essentially seen as a CEO in these books, and should be given support and obedience because he is the one that God has chosen to be in that position.

But there was a very good reason that the writers of the constitution separated powers so cleanly - the natural tendency for corruption. Their experience of monarchial rule under the British throne was so onerous they could see just how unfair executive power can be if it is given too much power. Yet it appears as though this modern "leadership cult" has blinded many to the excesses that have typified the current President.

Much of the President's defence has been based upon the idea that "it was necessary to break the rules in order to safeguard America". I don't buy this explanation, simply because it is not solely up to the president to safeguard America. Nor is it reasonable to have a direct say in how law enforcement departments run themselves.

In my opinion, Bush's revelation that he had authorised illegal surveillances on US citizens is merely the icing on the cake. The invasion of Iraq, which was a popular but indefensible act, convinced me that the President was abusing his position for his own ends. He was both acting out of malice and making huge mistakes in judgement.

When Richard Nixon eventually fell on his sword, congress had made its mind up that it needed to use its not inconsiderable muscle to limit presidential power. Jimmy Carter was the main target of this new decision by congress, but the new situation helped neither his presidency nor the country in general. Congressional foresight may not have been very good during this period of history, but at least they made the right decision - after all, who wants another Richard Nixon?

But now we have a president who is now considered by many to be worse than Nixon - worse, in fact, than any other president in US history. I am supremely confident that 10-20 years from now this opinion will continue to be vindicated by historians and experts and the general populance.

So what to do? There is only one real solution - impeach both George Bush and Dick Cheney and remove them from office. After that, congress should appoint an Acting President to keep the oval office seat warm until the 2008 presidential elections.

The madness of King George has gone on long enough. While impeachment brings shame and embarrassment to America, to not impeach him will be even worse. It is time that congress stood up for what is right, rather than for what is expedient.

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/



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20 comments:

CraigS said...

has become essentially a new-age monarchy under George W. Bush

Could you explain this further? Which actions specifically are "monarch-like"?

Much of the President's defence has been based upon the idea that "it was necessary to break the rules in order to safeguard America".

I'm not sure what you are referring to. Which rules did he break? Constitutional rules? Could you provide some quotes of the President's "defence"?

One Salient Oversight said...

You can check out the Wikipedia article about the subject.

Essentially the President admitted authorising wiretaps on US citizens without first getting a warrant. He admitted it on TV and even defended his actions. The Wikipedia article should give you more links.

CraigS said...

Only skimmed the article, but Bush stated clearly that he believed he had acted in accordance with the law. The Patriot act gives enhanced surveillance power to government agencies. I haven't read Title II - but are you certain that a law has been broken?

One Salient Oversight said...

Quite certain. The editorials of most US newspapers have been scathing. A number of high profile Senators - including Republicans - have expressed their disgust and their desire for a full investigation.

From what I understand, there are legal avenues for law enforcement agencies to go down if they suspect someone and wish to wiretap them. The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act gives the FBI and other organisations some leeway and apparently FISA has a number of Federal Judges who can authorise warrants for wiretaps.

The problem is that Bush's admission is that these wiretaps occurred outside FISA's control. The wiretaps were authorised not by a judge (which is the law) but by the President himself.

The issue actually dates back to Nixon's time when he used the FBI to spy on political adversaries. Since that time congress has passed a number of laws to limit such activity and to ensure that any such wiretaps would have legal control.

Essentially, when Bush got up and admitted that he had authorised these wiretaps, he was admitting that he had broken the law and committed an offense that, apparently, could land him in jail for 5 or more years. The fact that he authorised thousands is even more problematic.

I'll admit that I didn't see this as such a massive issue when the story broke a few days ago, but it is obvious from the newspapers and the blogs and the pronouncements from politicians that this is an exceptionally serious matter.

CraigS said...

It will be interesting to see what develops. If it is as clear cut as you say, then I suspect he will be in some trouble...

With respect though, the left often engage in wishful thinking. I remember being told that Katrina would be Bush's "Monica Lewinsky" - the person telling me this was certain. And I remember your good self suggesting Bush would be impeached over the Valerie Plame affair.

We will see what develops. I'm not certain how the Patriot Act interfaces with the 78 FISA Act. Wiki also mentioned the existence of War Powers, which muddy the waters a little more.

If Bush has broken the law then he should be brought to account. We will see what develops...

CraigS said...

Heya Neil, I've done a bit more reading on this now.

The whole thing is not quite as clear-cut as you may have thought. FISA actually has an exclusion clause covering this type of monitoring - 18 U.S.C. 2511(f).

The other issue is the "War Powers" which I referred to before. After 9/11, congress authorised Bush to "wage war" on Al Qaeda and its associates. The scope of war powers are broad and fairly ill-defined (from what I gather).

The administration sought legal advice before proceeding. The operations in question were audited by the DoJ. Both the SoS and the AG have stated the operations were legal.

Bottom line - its a murky situation. But I feel confident in saying this will NOT be Bush's Watergate...

CraigS said...

A right-wing slant on the business can be found here

CraigS said...

Hmmm...seems that Clinton may have understood the law the same way as Bush -

http://www.law.syr.edu/faculty/banks/terrorism/dummyfl/binladen_12_19_00.pdf

One Salient Oversight said...

Craig,

You know, quite a number of your assertions just don't add up. You have made a few cheap shots about the whinging left without real knowledge.

You talk about how Katrina was Bush's "Monica Lewinsky". I really don't know what that person was saying to you except that when Clinton was being impeached his approval ratings increased.

You need to remember that the Lewinsky affair took up many many months of political dialogue and work before impeachment actually went ahead. Katrina is still only a few months old and the investigations into Federal govt. incompetence continues.

The same for the Plame affair. Was I wrong in making the assumption that Bush would be impeached as a result of this? Actually no. Impeachment takes many months and the Plame affair is still being investigated and so is a US Senate report into pre-war intelligence. It is still very possible that the Plame affair will lead to impeachment.

So when you say With respect though, the left often engage in wishful thinking. I will say, with respect, that quite often you have little idea what you're talking about. I honestly suggest that you get a grip on some of these issues before making comments, otherwise you'll look a real fool when TSHTF.

CraigS said...

You have made a few cheap shots about the whinging left without real knowledge.
Neil, it was not my intention to take any "cheap shots" and I am sorry if it came across that way. I was making an observation that some sections of society are very quick to accuse GWB.

The same happens in Australia with Howard. I've heard quite a few people now say the Cronulla riots were "Howards fault". I was in the city for the NUS protest and they were handing out leaflets of Howard wearing a swastika. Thats a constructive response to cultural tension apparently!

Anyway, I dont really want to argue about "wishful thinking". I would much prefer to engage in discussion of the matter at hand.

As I showed above, the wire-tapping situation is somewhat complicated. Bush insists what he did was legal, and that he had legal advice to that effect.

What are your thoughts on the 4th ammendment limitations, as argued in USA vs bin Laden? Are they applicable here?

Also, how do you think "war powers" affect this situation? When congress gave Bush authority to "wage war" on al Qaeda, did this increase his powers in this area?

Finally, do you think exclusion clause (f) applies in this scenario?

I am genuinely interested in your thoughts on the above...

One Salient Oversight said...

1. According to page 3 of the pdf file, CIA agents (I think) essentially searched the home of a US citizen in Kenya. That's not what is going on here. Bush's wiretaps were in America, and were made on American citizens.

2. When congress gave Bush "War powers", I don't think they ever gave him the ability to make decisions that were the exclusive purview of the Judiciary. For wiretaps to be used in the US there needs to be a warrant issued by a judge. In the case of potential foreign terrorism, a special act (FISA) allows the FBI to contact a Federal Judge and begin wiretapping almost straight away once the judge gives them a Warrant. The point is that the President of the USA is part of the executive branch of government, not the judicial. The law seems to be very clear that a judge, a member of the judicial branch of government, has to grant a warrant. Because Bush bypassed this procedure, he was, in effect, acting as though he was the judicial branch of government. That's why I started to refer to Bush as "King George" - much in the same way as Senator Russ Fiengold did after the event. So the problem really is whether the President, under the authority given to him, is able to transcend the executive/judicial divide that is considered so improtant in the US constitution. Bush essentially was breaking the "Separation of powers", and I don't think that Congress was giving him the right to do that.

3. I'm not sure what you're referring to when you talk about "War Powers". This is essentially part of section one of the US constitution, but required congress to formally declare war. As far as I know, since 9/11 congress has not formally delcared war on anybody. So can you give me a pointer to where I can find "exclusion clause F"

One Salient Oversight said...

I'm not alone in this. A white house press briefing about the subject had the following exchange:

Q Now that the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, do you expect your legal analysis to be tested in the courts?

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: I'm not going to, you know, try to guess as to what's going to happen about that. We're going to continue to try to educate the American people and the American Congress about what we're doing and the basis -- why we believe that the President has the authority to engage in this kind of conduct.

Q Because there are some very smart legal minds who clearly think a law has been broken here.

ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: Well, I think that they may be making or offering up those opinions or assumptions based on very limited information. They don't have all the information about the program. I think they probably don't have the information about our legal analysis.

One Salient Oversight said...

It seems that real-life congressmen are now calling for impeachment, not just the looney left:

http://www.accessnorthga.com/news/ap_newfullstory.asp?I...

Congressman calls for Bush impeachment

The Associated Press - ATLANTA

U.S. Rep. John Lewis said Monday in a radio interview that President Bush should be impeached if he broke the law in authorizing spying on Americans.

The Democratic senator from Georgia told WAOK-AM he would sign a bill of impeachment if one was drawn up and that the House of Representatives should consider such a move.

Lewis is among several Democrats who have voiced discontent with Sunday night's television speech, where Bush asked Americans to continue to support the Iraq War. Lewis is the first major House figure to suggest impeaching Bush.

"Its a very serious charge, but he violated the law," said Lewis, a former civil rights leader. "The president should abide by the law. He deliberately, systematically violated the law. He is not King, he is president."

CraigS said...

On September 14 2001, Congress passed the following resolution -

"the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September
11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States."

I guess the legal eagles would have to determine if this amounts to a formal declaration of war or not. The constitution does not specify what language is to be used in such a declaration.

I realise you are not the only one who thinks this story is an issue.

In the El-Hage case, the government argued that the 4th ammendment warrant clause does not apply when the collection of foreign intelligence is involved.

The Supreme court has acknowledged this exception (US vs Clay, 1970) but the details have not been fleshed out. I imagine it is this precedent that the Bush legal advice would have referred to.

AlanDownunder said...

CraigS --

If you can't be apolitical about this then ask yourself whether an assumption by a future Democrat President of the surveillance powers assumed by George W Bush would be a good thing.

Also, if secret Presidential surveillance is as kosher as you suggest, why is Bush presently bothering Congress with contentious surveillance aspects of the Patriot Act renewal when he can just go ahead and lawfully do whatever surveillance he wants anyway?

Finally, in a US where Republican solidarity has reached unprecedented levels, why are so many team-playing Republicans declaring Bush's warrantless NSA surveillance illegal and impeachable?

CraigS said...

if secret Presidential surveillance is as kosher as you suggest,

You have misread my comments. I am not saying it is kosher - I am merely attempting to understand the legalities of the situation.

Now, as to your specific points -

ask yourself whether an assumption by a future Democrat President of the surveillance powers assumed by George W Bush would be a good thing.

Do I think it a good thing if the President were to monitor the internation phone calls of 500 people with links to al'Qaeda? Yes, I do.

why is Bush presently bothering Congress with contentious surveillance aspects of the Patriot Act renewal

I'm not familiar with this. What specific resolutions do you mean?

when he can just go ahead and lawfully do whatever surveillance he wants anyway?

No-one has ever suggested he can "do whatever surveillance he wants."

why are so many team-playing Republicans declaring Bush's warrantless NSA surveillance illegal and impeachable?

I don't know - I guess it is their honest opinion.

Can you list 3 or 4 of these Republicans, and provide references to where they have said that the surveillance is both "illegal" and "impeachable"? I would be interested to read their statements in context.

One Salient Oversight said...

Craig,

You're not arguing your point very well. Both Alan and I have seen very credible evidence in our travels around the internet about this issue. If you're not careful you could paint yourself into a corner.

You're really questioning some basic evidence here that is accepted as true by a multitude of others, including those on the right. I find it really hard to dialogue with someone over an issue who does not seem to have the facts readily at hand - it's like a person having an argument with you because they want to annoy you and belittle you, not because they are genuinely interested in the topic at hand.

It appears as though you've jumped to a conclusion that this issue is just another leftist rant by a bunch of swastika wearing communists. I can assure you, if you had actually read the 7-8 US newspaper editorials about the subject and NOT just some right wing blog posting his opinion, you might actually have somewhere to stand.

Please - if you're going to engage in a serious discussion about the events at hand then it would be good if you were at least up to date with basic information.

CraigS said...

You're really questioning some basic evidence here that is accepted as true by a multitude of others, including those on the right.

Which basic evidence are you referring to? I am simply asking for references to be supplied for the assertions that have been made.

CraigS said...

Anyway, I'll avoid grief by not contributing anymore to this discussion. I look forward to hearing what your other readers have to say.

James Spurgeon said...

I find it quite interesting to read the opinions of a non-citizen about American politics.

I disagree with your view of the Bush presidency, but I am quite intrigued with what you are saying here about the Executive Branch having more power than it should.

From over here in this hemisphere, I find myself much more concerned about the state of the balance of power when I view the activities of the Judicial branch, than when I view the activities of GWB.

Intersting.

A couple of things I would like to note that I know you will give a fair hearing to.

One, the American press is liberal for the most part and traditionally opposes everything a Republican president does, pursues everything they can find against him, while at the same time choosing not to treat a Democrat the same way. The bias is so obvious, in fact, that ratings of the main stream press have been in sharp decline for years. They are the lap dog of the DNC and that is well-documented. So keep that in mind when you listen to them.

Republican senator John McCain is a maverick, a moderate, and a bitter enemy of GWB who soundly thumped in his presidential bid. He's playing politics. Keep that in mind as well.

When it comes to the Iraq war, you must take it in the entire context of the War on terror to understand it from Bush's persepctive. His idea is that democracy must be exported to that region of the world in order for terrorism to be defeated in the long-run. That's what his policy is seeking to do. Frankly, I would much rather see our soldiers fighting terrorism on the streets of Baghdad than on the streets of New York and I have friends who were over there.

As far as the whole "Bush lied about weapons of mass destruction argument," it is so transparent that I find it inconceivable that people fall for it. Bush said absolutely nothing before the war that was not said and believed by Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, and leading Dems in Congress. Were they lying too? No, they were all misguided by the same misinformation. All of this can be documented.

Look, my only purpose for writng this is that I like you, I liked your blogpost (really), and I thought I'd give you the perspective of someone from over here on this side of the world. God bless.