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Hullabaloo


Monday, December 19, 2005

 
Checks And Balances

by digby


I'm hearing various pundits discuss how bold-yet-cadid, manly-yet-sensitive the preznit is today after finally going on offense, hitting it out of the park and turning the corner. His numbers are shooting back up and he's on firm ground.

They just love it when he spanks them:


QUESTION: I wonder if you can tell us today, sir, what, if any, limits you believe there are or should be on the powers of a president during wartime.

And if the global war on terror is going to last for decades, as has been forecast, does that mean that we're going to see, therefore, a more or less permanent expansion of the unchecked power of the executive in American society?

BUSH: First of all, I disagree with your assertion of unchecked power.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: Hold on for a second, please.

There is the check of people being sworn to uphold the law, for starters.

There is oversight. We're talking to Congress all the time.

And on this program, to suggest there's unchecked power is not listening to what I'm telling you. I'm telling you, we have briefed the United States Congress on this program a dozen times.

This is an awesome responsibility, to make decisions on behalf of the American people. And I understand that. And we'll continue to work with the Congress, as well as people within our own administration, to constantly monitor a program such as the one I described to you, to make sure that we're protecting the civil liberties of the United States.

To say "unchecked power" basically is ascribing some kind of dictatorial position to the president, which I strongly reject.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

BUSH: I just described limits on this particular program, and that's what's important for the American people to understand. I am doing what you expect me to do and, at the same time, safeguarding the civil liberties of the country.



He's not actually lashing out at the masochistic media, no matter how much they enjoy it. He's lashing out because this is where his argument is weakest. He's trying to make the case that the congress somehow "approved" this action as a check to executive power.

This is not true. Notifying members of congress in a classified briefing they cannot disclose publicly is not a check. Intelligence committee members cannot give authorization to the president to break the law in the first place And to say that "telling" them what they are going to do and then classifying the information so they cannot reveal it amounts to a check on executive power is to invoke dictatorial powers.

As an exasperated Carl Levin just pointed out, the check on executive power in these circumstances is written into the law. It's called the FISA court. And they have not yet given any reasonable explanation as to why they could not have applied for a review within the 72 hour period they are alotted after initiating the intercepts. They keep saying that they have to move fast and cannot wait and other gibberish about "long term monitoring" none of which adequately explains why they had to break the law.

The only thing we can assume from the information we have is that they didn't want anyone, not even a rubber stamp secret court, to know who they were monitoring. Now why would that be?


The NY Times withheld certain tchnical information about this program in their story last week because of alleged national security concerns. Now that the president has admitted to authorizing it and he and his flunkies have been babbling incoherently about "moving fast" and "long term monitoring" I think it's now imperative that they tell the public the whole story.



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