The New American Unspoken Manifesto

I have been thinking lately about that old quote from Nobel prizewinning author Sinclair Lewis: "When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross."

Thinking in terms of the past several years of the Bush 43 Administration, I can't help but draw many parallels; from the claims of "compassionate conservatism" to the current occupier of the White House consistently trotting out his faith, in a way to reassure that we're on the side of the angels and being led by a guy who is a really devotedly religious fellow. And we all know about the patriotism, or lack thereof, that have been regularly employed in an attempt to stifle any dissent. "Wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross." How easy it would be to take over this country simply equipped with well-crafted and sellable rhetoric...

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Destroy Gonzales-ism

The excerpt below is posted with the full knowledge and permission, even encouragement, of the author, who wants his essays to be read by as many people as possible.

From The Hill's Pundits Blog:

Destroy Gonzales-ism

Brent Budowsky

Thomas Paine once wrote that in absolute governments, the King is law, and in free nations, the Law is king.

The fundamental problem is not that Alberto Gonzales lied, prevaricated, misrepresented or played Pinocchio when he falsely stated he was not involved in the decisions to fire the U.S. attorneys. Those actions were wrong and appropriate grounds for removal, but there is much, much worse.

MORE MORE MORE

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Cheney's Office Behind Unprecedented Signing Statements

Late last month we learned from Charlie Savage of The Boston Globe that President Bush has used signing statements more than 750 times to effectively override legislation without going through the constitutionally laid out veto process. Today Savage reports for The Globe that this extra-juridical effort comes directly out of the office of the Vice President.

The office of Vice President Dick Cheney routinely reviews pieces of legislation before they reach the president's desk, searching for provisions that Cheney believes would infringe on presidential power, according to former White House and Justice Department officials.

The officials said Cheney's legal adviser and chief of staff, David Addington , is the Bush a dministration's leading architect of the ``signing statements" the president has appended to more than 750 laws. The statements assert the president's right to ignore the laws because they conflict with his interpretation of the Constitution.

The Bush-Cheney administration has used such statements to claim for itself the option of bypassing a ban on torture, oversight provisions in the USA Patriot Act, and numerous requirements that they provide certain information to Congress, among other laws.

The constitution lays out an appropriate path for a President to show his dissatifaction with a piece of legislation. As we all learned in sixth grade civics class, rather than signing a bill into law, the President can issue a veto, thus sending the legislation back to Congress where a two-thirds majority in both Houses can override the objection, thus still making the legislation law.

But by effectively vetoing these hundreds of pieces of legislation with signing statements rather than actual vetoes, President bush is effectively denying the Congress -- and thus the American people (because the legislative branch is supposed to be the most reflective of the will of the citizens) -- an opportunity to make their voices heard. True, I am no constitutional scholar, but it seems apparent to me that this practice is not within the bounds of the constitution.

The precedent the Bush administration -- and in particular the Vice President and his chief of staff -- are setting today is dangerous. And given the fact that the Republican Congress is unwilling to stand up to President Bush on anything other than FBI raids on Congressmen, it's clear that a Democratic Congress is needed to offer at least some balance so that George W. Bush is not allowed to trample the constitution willy nilly.

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Bush Says He will Ignore PATRIOT Reporting Provisions

President Bush issued one of his infamous "signing statements" for HR 199 - the "USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005".  In it, he seems to say that he will ignore reporting provisions specifically laid out by his own party.  

Orin Kerr sums it up at The Volokh Conspiracy.

Some influential lawyers in the Administration believe that Congress has only limited ability to interfere with the executive branch, and such statements express the Administration's intent not to follow provisions that its lawyers believe interfere with executive power. In most cases, we don't know what the statements mean: the executive branch announces that it is taking a position based on its view of Article II, but never discloses exactly what that position is.

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Congress has required DOJ to conduct audits and file reports, and we'll presumably learn the executive branch's view of the law when it refuses to comply in whole or in part with Congress's requirements.

One of the most troubling qualifications, I think, is this:

The executive branch shall construe the provisions...in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to withhold information the disclosure of which could impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative processes of the Executive, or the performance of the Executive's constitutional duties. *

Think of what all that implies - impair foreign relations?  the deliberative processes of the Executive?  I think this is another invocation of the new anti-embarrassment legal principle.  Of course, as Kerr rightly notes, we won't know until it happens.  If there's one thing we're never going to get from this administration, it's a straight answer.

On a lighter note, I think it would be great if there was a Constitutional requirement that the President explain, in his own words, what his statements mean.

* Emphasis mine.

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Is the Congress relevant? Not according to the administration

This evening I finally had enough time to put my thoughts regarding the poor job of framing the Dubai Ports deal into an email to many members of the Democratic hierarchy, including the 2 Democratic senators from my home state of NY.  I feel that we as a party have missed out on a golden opportunity to frame the debate not as one of purely homeland security and xenophobia, but rather as one where we question whether this administration considers the Congress a relevant part of the democratic process.  The following is the letter that I sent to each key senator and representative in hopes that this theme will be adopted in future interviews about the Ports deal:

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