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7/27/2004

Fetishizing Constitutional Power

The Administration plays a good game at invoking the separation of powers and respect for constitutional structure when it suits its purpose. But it is revealed as merely a game, just one more tool for aggrandizing Bush's presidential powers, when one examines his treatment of other branches of government. If Bush really respected the separation of powers, he would give due respect to his co-equal branches of government.

Dana Milbank, in today's Post, notes the administration's single-minded focus on increasing executive power. The 9-11 Commission recommended the creation of an executive branch counter-terrorism director that would be confirmed by the Senate. Milbank reminds us that the same proposal was floated in 2002, and the administration shot it down.

Here's what happened in 2002, when lawmakers tried -- and failed -- to get a Senate-confirmed counterterrorism director in the White House: The White House threatened a veto, saying the legislation "seeks to interject Congress into the daily operations of the Executive Office of the President by requiring the director and a senior advisor to the president, within the president's own executive office, to report directly to Congress and participate in agency budget processes in a statutorily mandated fashion that is unacceptable. The creation of this office represents undue interference with presidential prerogatives and management of his own staff and support structures."
Robert Byrd, the main champion of Congressional powers, has a new book out, Losing America, in which he gives an account of Bush's contempt for Congress. Russell Baker's review in the New York Review of Books, only available to subscribers, provides a good summary of it. Byrd highlights Congress's abrogation of its war making powers in Iraq. He recounts personal slights by Bush in the DHS "debate." He discusses the "party discipline of Teutonic severity" that keeps the Senate in lockstep behind Bush.

Bush's aggrandizement of the executive is not founded in respect for the constitution. It is about undermining both democracy and liberalism, in favor of I know not what.
If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator.

 

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