Apparently, Sen. Arlen Specter thinks we should all go along with whatever the President wants to do. Even if the President has been secretly breaking the law for years — since before 9/11/01 — we should just all clap our hands, make the illegality go away, and be cheerful about Specter’s bill that allows the President to keep on doing what he’s doing, retroactively okay the Bush Administration’s illegal conduct (as a former prosecutor, I’m sure you know how well THAT sits with me), and the hell with the Constitutional consequences and all those other pesky accountability and oversight responsibilities. After all, a strong unilateral executive is what the Framers intended right? What we want is a President who can just do as he pleases without any meaningful oversight by either the legislative or judicial branches, isn’t it?
Well…NO. (via Glenn)
Sen. Arlen Specter has an Op-Ed in this morning’s Washington Post which attempts to justify his proposed FISA legislation — legislation which, at its core, renders legal the President’s lawbreaking and cedes to the President the right to eavesdrop on Americans with no judicial oversight. The bill would also all but kill pending litigation challenging the legality of the President’s eavesdropping conduct, and endorse a theory of presidential power so extreme that even the President’s own Attorney General rejects it. Despite all of this, Specter claims, apparently with a straight face, that "negotiations with administration officials and the president himself were fierce" and that the bill is "a preeminently fair compromise."
What Specter’s Op-Ed actually does is provide a powerful reflection of the extent to which the Congress has been reduced to an empty, symbolic vessel which is permitted to act only to the extent it retroactively endorses the President’s conduct. The outright debasement of the Congress by the administration is additionally reflected by the fact that Specter is actually expressing gratitude for the President’s willingness to allow courts to adjudicate the constitutionality of his conduct, as though that is something the President has the power to prohibit….
With the Specter legislation, Bush has not agreed to allow the FISA court, or any other court, to adjudicate the legality of his eavesdropping program (meaning whether he has been violating the law for the last five years by ordering warrantless eavesdropping). To the contrary, the Specter bill would all but kill pending litigations around the country which allege that the President acted criminally by violating FISA. Nor would the Specter bill require the President to submit eavesdropping requests to courts for approval. To the contrary, the bill expressly allows the President to eavesdrop on Americans with no judicial oversight….
The Bush administration, as is well known by now, believes that the President has the power to violate laws enacted by Congress. But not even George Bush, Dick Cheney or John Yoo have argued that he can override specific constitutional protections guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. All Bush has "agreed to" is to conditionally "allow" a court to decide if his eavesdropping violates the 4th Amendment. Expressing gratitude for that or acting as though it is some sort of concession is to now vest the President not merely with the power to violate Congressional law, but also the Bill of Rights.
The Legislative Branch is supposed to be the strong arm of government, as the direct voice of the people, balanced by the judicial and executive branches. Boy, did the Founders miss that one these days. But who, after the American Revolution, could have forseen such a spineless bunch in elected office, willing to trade their own branch of government for some coins and a seat at the kiddie power ranger table? Who would have thought that Antonin Scalia would provide more of a check on George Bush than the entire Republican-controlled Congress?
The bottom line: do you trust George Bush?
Here’s all the information you need to let your elected representatives know how you feel — about illegal NSA domestic spying, upholding the Constitution, and the need for our elected officials to do their jobs and provide oversight and hold President Bush accountable for his actions. Tell them to vote no on Senate bill 2453 — and uphold our commitment to the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and what it means to be a true American patriot.
No more rubber stamps. Had enough?
(This cartoon from Gary Brookins of the Richmond Times-Dispatch arrived in my in-box last December, and I have been saving it for just such a post ever since. Brookins is a genius, and this cartoon was just too perfect. Click thru on the link to see many more hilarious Brookins masterpieces.)