Is George Bush delusional?
No, that question is not an attack on his intelligence.
Nor is it a criticism of some bizarre new position he has taken with regard to the affairs of state--although, as it happens, he has.
Rather, it is a serious question about whether the president understands what is going on around him.
After he announced Tuesday that the White House would not make a serious effort to cooperate with the Senate Judiciary Committee's investigation into the firing of US Attorneys who would not politicize their prosecutions, the President was asked about several of the attorneys who had been removed.
"I'm sorry, just frankly, it bubbled to the surface the way it has, for the US attorneys involved," answered Bush. "I really am. These are --I put them in there in the first place. They're decent people. They serve at our pleasure. And yet, now, they're being held up in the scrutiny of all this. And it's just--what I said in comments, I meant about them. I appreciated their service, and I'm sorry that the situation has gotten to where it's got. But that's Washington, DC, for you. You know, there a lot of politics in this town."
Here's the troubling thing about Bush's response.
It appears that he might be unaware that his firing of the US Attorneys – who, as he notes "serve at the pleasure of the president" – took the situation "to where it's got."
Does Bush think that these US Attorneys are under attack by the Senate?
Does he not understand that the Senate is trying to figure out why Bush and his aides went after the fired prosecutors?
Does he not understand that the US Attorneys in question will be testifying about wrongdoing by presidential appointees?
That's where the question about the President's awareness of what is going on around him arises.
Indeed, the only comment more delusional than his expression of sympathy for the US Attorneys was Bush's suggestion that he and his aides have the authority to refuse to cooperate with Congressional requests for information and testimony regarding wrongdoing within the White House.
After bluntly stating that he would fight efforts to have White House staffers testify before the Judiciary Committee, he said of the Senate: "I hope they don't choose confrontation."
The Senate is not choosing confrontation. Bush is.
Senate Judiciary Committee chair Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, is operating entirely within its Constitutional mandate. Leahy has consulted closely with Republicans on the committee and respected their requests to give the White House time to do the right thing. Now that his White House has refused to respect the separation of powers clauses of the Constitution, Bush says of members of the Senate: "It will be regrettable if they choose to head down the partisan road of issuing subpoenas and demanding show trials, when I have agreed to make key White House officials and documents available."
Let's be clear: The suggestion that the President is delusional is the most respectful assessment of what was said during Tuesday's press conference.
After all, if he is not delusional, than the President of the United States is deliberately attempting to deceive the Congress and the American people about high crimes and misdemeanors that may have been committed by his aides and by himself. In his comments Tuesday, the President made reference to what the framers of the Constitution "understood" when they were "developing the separate branches of government." In fact, what the framers understood was that, in order to assure that the executive branch would cooperate with the legislative branch in disputes over federal affairs, Congress would need the authority to sanction presidents who attempt to avert appropriate checks and balances. This was a matter that the framers of the Constitution took so seriously that they outlined specific remedies for so sanctioning lawless presidents and their aides.
For the President's reference, they are found in Article I in the sections dealing with the power of the Congress to impeach and remove presidents and their aides. It is sobering reading for royalists, so sobering in fact that it could cure a nasty case of presidential delusions.
John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"