Why is it taking the Senate intelligence committee forty times longer to examine how the Bush administration used--or misused--the prewar intelligence on Iraq and WMDs than it took for the United States military to topple Saddam Hussein? American troops reached Baghdad in three weeks (there were a few complications after that). But the intelligence committee, led by Republican Senator Pat Roberts, has dilly-dallied for two-and-a-half years when it has come to reviewing how George W. Bush and his top aides represented--or misrepresented--the WMD intelligence as they led (or misled) the nation to war. Last fall, the Senate Democrats shut down the Senate for a few hours to protest the committee's lack of progress in producing the so-called Phase II report that was supposed to focus on this matter. Roberts and the Republicans promised to conclude the inquiry soon. Yet another nine months have gone by, and as The Washington Post reported on Sunday, the committee is still not yet done. The Post noted:
The Republican-led committee, which agreed in February 2004 to write the report, has yet to complete its work. Just two of five planned sections of the committee's findings are fully drafted and ready to be voted on by members, according to Democratic and Republican staffers. Committee sources involved with the report, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they are working hard to complete it. But disputing Roberts, they said they had started almost from scratch in November after Democrats staged their protest.
And those two sections do not focus on the central subject--the administration's use of the prewar intelligence. One examines the intelligence agencies' prewar WMD estimates with what was found on the ground in Iraq. The other looks at what information provided by Iraqi exiles made it into official intelligence estimates. (It does not explore the influence of Ahmad Chalabi and his Iraqi National Congress on Bush administration officials before the invasion.)
I take the committee's lackadaisical approach to this issue personally, for Roberts once directly promised me that the Phase II would be a priority. This is what happened. On July 9, 2004, Roberts and his committee released a 500-plus page report on how the intelligence community screwed up the prewar intelligence. But the committee's report (over the objection of its Democratic members) ignored the touchy matter of whether Bush officials had mischaracterized the intelligence to win support for the invasion of Iraq. Not surprisingly, the committee, under Roberts direction, was avoiding this subject as the 2004 election neared. At the press conference Roberts held to mark the release of the committee's report on the WMD intelligence, I asked him about this missing part of the inquiry. Here's the exchange:
QUESTION: Given the 800 American GIs who have lost their lives so far, thousands have had serious injuries, lost limbs, all on the basis of false [WMD] claims...[and that] American taxpayers have had to kick in almost $200 billion, doesn't the American public and the relatives of people who lost their lives have a right to know before the next election whether this administration handled intelligence matters adequately and made statements that were justified -- before the election, not after the election?
ROBERTS: This is in phase two of our efforts. We simply couldn't get that done with the work product that we put out....It is one of my top priorities....Now, we have 20 legislative days. We want to have hearings from wise men and women in regards to the [intelligence] reform effort, and we will proceed with staff on phase two of the report. It involves probably three things -- or at least three. One is the prewar intelligence on Iraq, which is what you're talking about. Secondly is the situation with the assistant secretary of defense, Douglas Feith, and his activity in regards to material that he provided with a so-called intelligence planning cell to the Department of Defense and to the CIA. And then the left one -- what is the last one? What's the third one? Help me with it....Well, that's prewar intelligence on Iraq.
There is a third one, and I don't know why I can't come up with it right now. But, anyway, it is a priority. And, hey, I have told [Senator] Jay [Rockefeller, the ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee], I have told everybody on the other side of the aisle, everybody on our side of the aisle, 'We'll proceed with phase two. It is a priority.' I made my commitment, and it will be done.
So Roberts looked straight at me and said that the Phase II report was a "priority" for him and that he had made a commitment to complete this mission. Yet he has not made good on that commitment. It causes me to wonder if he misled me--that is, if he falsely declared he was committed to such a review only to kick the can down the road past the 2004 election. Now, according to the Post, he's trying to do the same with the 2006 elections. The paper noted:
The section most Democrats have sought, however, is not yet in draft form and might not emerge until after the November election, staffers said. That section will examine the administration's deliberations over prewar intelligence and whether its public presentation of the threat reflected the evidence senior officials reviewed in private.
Were Roberts truly committed to this task, it would have been done before the 2004 election. One committee staffer once told me this sort of review could be finished within months. Yet Roberts has been playing games--and he has got away with it. The Phase II controversy boils up (into public view) every six months or so and then fades. And only once has the Democrats succeeded in embarrassing Roberts for doing nothing. So he keeps kicking that can--rather than looking inside it. It's a funny way to treat a "priority."
BLATANT SELF-PROMOTION: If any of you happen to be near Cape Cod this week, I will be speaking/performing at the Payomet Theater on the evening of Wednesday, August 2. The event is billed "An Evening of Political Insight, Gossip and Outrage, Volume II," and it will combine satire, humor, analysis, self-righteous indignation, and bombast. I'll let the reviewers describe it in further detail. But as regular readers of DavidCorn.com know, I've taken a stab at stand-up during the past few years, and last summer when asked to participate in a spoken word series at the Payomet Theater in Truro (a town situated between Wellfleet and Provincetown), I let portions of that stand-up routine bleed into my usual lecture on the Current Political Situation. For some odd reason, I was invited back this summer. If you need more information, go to the home page of the Payomet Performing Arts Center.
Does it matter that The New York Times has endorsed anti-war challenger Ned Lamont over Senator Joe Lieberman in the August 8 Connecticut Democratic primary?
Of course it does.
No, newspaper endorsements do not swing all that many votes in and of themselves, especially in high-profile contests. But, especially when they go against a long-term incumbent like Lieberman, they help wavering voters make the leap into the opposition camp.
For Lamont, who is running slightly ahead in the polls, today's Times endorsement comes at precisely the right moment -- as the campaign enters its final stretch. And it comes in the Sunday edition of the paper, which is more closely read in Connecticut -- and elsewhere -- than any other.
The Times circulates widely in Connecticut, and has a long tradition of making endorsements in the state's elections, so the newspaper's choice was long awaited. If the Times had endorsed Lieberman, as the more Republican-friendly Hartford Courant did Sunday, then the senator's flagging campaign might have received the boost it failed to get when former President Bill Clinton swept into the state last Monday to try and pump some life into the incumbent's reelection bid.
The endorsement by the Times, which has backed Lieberman in most of his past races, and which is far more cautious politically than its conservative critics would have America believe, came as something of a shock to Lamont backers. Just a few weeks ago, when I interviewed a Lamont aide in Connecticut, he told me that the candidate was merely hoping for a few kind words from the paper in what was expected to be a pro-Lieberman editorial.
Instead, the Times hit Lieberman where it hurts, ridiculing the senator's suggestion that his support of President Bush's misguided foreign policies makes him some kind of statesman. Suggesting that the Republican White's House's favorite Democratic senator has a "warped version of bipartisanship," the Times editorial explained that, by making himself an apologist for the Bush administration's worst excesses, Lieberman "has forfeited his role as a conscience of his party and has forfeited our support."
At the same time, the newspaper of record offered Lamont exactly what a political newcomer challenging an entrenched incumbent needs: respect from a known quantity. The editors of the Times referred to Lamont as a "smart and moderate" candidate who "showed spine in challenging the senator while other Democrats groused privately."
The Times editorial closed by giving Connecticut Democrats who might not be sure about jettisoning the man their party nominated for vice president in 2000 a compelling case for doing so. "[This] primary is not about Mr. Lieberman's legislative record. Instead it has become a referendum on his warped version of bipartisanship, in which the never-ending war on terror becomes an excuse for silence and inaction," the editors explain, before concluding that, on the basis of this choice, "We endorse Ned Lamont in the Democratic primary for Senate in Connecticut."
How low will Republicans go to try and hang onto control of Ohio, the swing state where their machinations secured the presidency for George W. Bush in 2004?
Lower than reasonable Americans, no matter what their partisanship, no matter what their ideology, could imagine.
Gary Lankford, the Ohio Republican Party's recently hired "social conservative coordinator" this week dispatched a mass e-mail to so-called "pro-family friends" that featured his 10-point introduction to U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, the Democratic nominee for governor.
Strickland, an ordained Methodist minister who has thrown Republicans for a loop by speaking about his faith during the campaign, is running far ahead of scandal-plagued Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, the Republican nominee who gained national fame in 2004 when he was broadly accused of manipulating election processes and vote counting to favor Bush in the presidential race.
What's the GOP strategy for getting Blackwell back into the running? Imply that Strickland is gay.
What are Republican staffers pointing to as evidence? Reports that the Democratic congressman and his wife of 20 years reside in different locations when he is in Washington.
In his email, Lankford, the GOP "social conservative coordinator," links to an Internet posting by a conservative operative that is headlined: "Article Adds Fire to Strickland Gay Rumors." The posting suggests that a mid-June Toledo Blade newspaper article implies "the Stricklands are both gay."
The article turns out to be a wide-ranging Father's Day feature on Strickland and Blackwell, in which mention was made of the fact that Strickland and his wife have no children. Blackwell was quoted as saying that it would be absurd to try and make an issue of whether the Democrat was a father or not. "Some of my most adored, most respected leaders are not parents," said the Republican. "Pope John Paul II was not a parent."
But Strickland, who is supported by gay and lesbian groups in the state and has criticized legislative assaults on gay rights, noted the frustration of Republicans with the Democrat's ability to match them on moral values issues and suggested that he might well be attacked. "The most effective way to campaign now is to identify your opponent's strengths and try to destroy those strengths," Strickland warned.
It looks like the Republican Party in Ohio has decided to jettison the "some of my most adored, most respected leaders are not parents" line in favor of an aggressive "Strickland's gay" assault on the Democrat's "moral values" appeal.
Indeed, Lankford's email, which highlighted his Republican Party role, urged recipients to: "Pass this information along."
When the "information" got passed along to the media, Ohio Republican Party political director Jason Mauk said the party repudiated the email. "We do not engage in rumor or innuendo," said Mauk, "especially rumors that are not relevant to this election."
I think it's time to start a new political party: Democrats for Demagoguery.
I'll give you three examples of why.
First there was the Dubai ports scandal. Sure, the uproar was bipartisan, but did any Democrat really believe that an Arab company couldn't run a US port as badly as an American one?
Then there was the furor over Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki offering so-called "amnesty" for insurgents who've killed American soldiers. It's a disgusting proposition, but bringing insurgents into the political process is a critical step towards ending the violence. Democrats who favor a speedy withdrawal from Iraq should've known that.
And finally Democrats went off the rocker this week about Maliki's denunciation of Israel's bombing of Lebanon. Howard Dean, the man who once rightly noted that the US should be more "evenhanded" in the Middle East, yesterday called Maliki an "anti-Semite." I'm sorry, but what do Democrats expect from a man whose government might get overthrown by Moqtada al-Sadr?
Our president is obtuse enough. He doesn't need an assist from the opposition.
For everyone who has been waiting for the response to Bernard Goldberg's awful 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America, Nationbooks has the answer--101 People Who Are Really Screwing America by Jack Huberman of The Bush-Haters Handbook fame. In this witty book, Huberman lays out in well-researched detail the interlocking relationships within the vast rightwing agenda to undermine our democratic institutions for profit and prophesy.
For example, there is Regnery Publishing, whose authors include Ann Coulter, David Horowitz, Phyllis Schlafly, Wayne LaPierre, G. Gordon Liddy, and whose founder William Regnery (#71) has started a match-making service for "heterosexual whites of Christian cultural heritage." And don't forget the Reverend Sun Myung Moon (#54), who published The Washington Times and started lobbying Republican politicians heavily after his organization ran afoul of the IRS. Since then he hasn't had as many legal problems. Of course, you would expect Halliburton and its CEO, David Lesar, (#72) to make the list, but did you know that Dick Cheney's old company was helping the Iranians develop their natural gas fields in 2005--two years after the Axis of Evil speech?
It is these and so many other details in Huberman's book that remind us who we are fighting and why.
The sectarian violence that's taking place in the Baghdad area...is probably the gravest threat to stability that there is in the country right now.
-- General John Abizaid, chief of US Central Command
July 25, 2006
It is a new challenge. This isn't about insurgency, this isn't about terror, this is about sectarian violence. And it's a new challenge for the government. And they recognize that.
--Stephen Hadley, national security adviser
July 25, 2006
The greatest threat Iraq's people face is terror; terror inflicted by extremists.
--Nouri al-Maliki, Iraqi prime minister
July 26, 2006
Why is the United States in Iraq?
That is question that is increasingly difficult for the White House to answer coherently--and honestly. This past week, George W. Bush, appearing at a press conference with Maliki, noted that the horrific and intensifying violence in Iraq of recent weeks is "terrible" and that more US troops will be deployed to Baghdad. But who--and what--is the enemy? And what can US troops do about disorder and violence there?
Sectarian violence, according to Abizaid and Hadley, is now the main problem in Iraq (which was predicted by some experts before the invasion). Maliki, for obvious reasons, does not concede that. He wants US troops to remain in Iraq. Consequently, when he spoke to the US Congress on July 27, he depicted the fight in Iraq as a struggle pitting lovers of democracy (his government and the United States) against "terrorists" connected to those who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001. ("I will not allow Iraq to become a launch pad for al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations," he declared, in a line rather reminiscent of the previous work of White House speechwriters.) In a fact sheet, the White House noted that when Maliki met with Bush, the Iraqi leader "made clear that he does not want American troops to leave his country until his government can protect the Iraqi people."
Mission creep is under way. The cause--despite Maliki's Bush-like rhetoric--is no longer combating jihadists (which replaced weapons of mass destruction as the reason for the war). It's making Iraq safe from Iraqi religious extremists. Maliki's government cannot protect Iraqis from their own neighbors, so he is looking to Bush to be his nation's cop-on-the-beat. But can the US military be an effective police force in a society increasingly plagued by sectarian violence that has little, if anything, to do with the fight against al Qaeda and Islamic jihadism? Maliki's own government is even part of the problem. Death squads connected to the Shiite-controlled Interior Ministry have been lead players in the current killing spree. If Maliki cannot control these elements, how can the US military? (In his speech to the US Congress, Maliki didn't address the knotty matter of the government-linked death squads. He briefly referred to "armed militias" but claimed that the rule of law and human rights are "flourishing" in Iraq.)
Sunni leaders--who once called for US forces to quit Iraq right away--now fear the ascendancy of Shiite killing squads so much that they have quieted their demands for a US withdrawal, fearing such a move would leave the Shiite militias even more unfettered. But should the United States remain in Iraq in response to such concerns? If so, US troops would be risking and sacrificing their lives to assist a government that is tied to death squads in order to prevent (Sunni) opponents of the leading (Shiite) bloc of that government from being killed by (Shiite) supporters of that leading bloc. Yes, politics in the Middle East have always been notoriously complicated and Byzantine. How many books--or intelligence reports--has Bush read about the intricacies of Arabic culture, history and politics?
Bush, all too obviously, has no good ideas how to navigate these shoals--which may not be navigable. After saying that more troops would be deployed to Baghdad, Bush was asked by an Iraqi reporter what could be done to improve the security situation in Baghdad. "There needs to be more forces inside Baghdad who are willing to hold people to account," he replied. "In other words if you find somebody who's kidnapping and murdering, the murderer ought to be held to account. And it ought to be clear in society that that kind of behavior is not tolerated....We ought to be saying that, if you murder, you're responsible for your actions. And I think the Iraqi people appreciate that type of attitude."
In other words, just say no to killing. That's not much of a plan. And there's not much of a role for US troops in such a plan.
Bush has led the United States into a rough thicket in Iraq. It has taken him months--perhaps years--to acknowledge the troubles there. And his inadequate description--it's "terrible"--is far more upbeat than the depictions shared by reporters and others who have come back from Iraq in recent weeks bearing depressing and ugly tales of a society falling apart.
Iraq is a mess. Bush bears much of the responsibility for that. He invaded the country supposedly to defend the United States from a threat that didn't exist. He did not ensure that there were proper plans for the post-invasion challenges. He did nothing as his national security aides bungled one key strategic post-invasion decision after another. Now he has to contend with a violent sectarian conflict that his elective war unleashed. He has, to a limited degree, acknowledged the problem. He hasn't yet admitted there may be little he can do about it.
The announcement from Geneva that the "Doha Round" negotiations for another global trade agreement is in "collapse" lacked high drama since impending failure was already clear to all but the most fervent cheerleaders for the World Trade Organization. Five years of sloganeering and media pep talks and clever maneuvering failed to persuade developing nations or even inspire much enthusiasm in advanced economies. This is very good news for peoples of the world, though you won't see the story played that way in the American press.
In round-about fashion, the WTO's failure represents belated vindication for the blue-green movement that arose in Seattle six years ago and the Global Social Forum launched later from Porto Alegre, Brazil. These bottom-up political mobilizations offered an alternative vision for globalization – not dominated by the desires and dictates of multinational corporations but by ideas of popular sovereignty and common human aspirations that are shared by people in vastly different trading nations. That promising movement was eclipsed by the drama of 9/11 and war in Iraq, but it was never really sidetracked. Many individual countries have already revolted against the "Washington Consensus" and even establishment experts are beginning to acknowledge its failures. Defeat for them in Geneva is an important marker of progress for those who can imagine a different world.
That assembly includes especially the poorer nations of the world, struggling to find their way in a complex game of economic diplomacy usually controlled by the corporate big boys. This time, the impoverished countries stood their ground. They did not take the bait and swallow the empty promises, though they were coaxed and bullied by the major industrial players, led by the US. That reflects both their courage and growing maturity.
The essential deal offered the poor was, if they would accept the expanded domination of the WTO and its multinational sponsors, the rich nations would slash their lush subsidies for global agribusiness, leaving more market space for agricultural producers in developing nations. Many gullible editorial writers bought the logic, but not the poorer nations themselves. To believe that promise, you had to believe George W. Bush was going to sell out Texas cotton and Florida sugar and Midwestern grain or that Paris intended to dump the prosperous farmers of Normandy.
The larger meaning of the Doha collapse is the growing rejection of the WTO itself as a trustworthy governing institution for the global system. It was created ten years ago and it's been down hill ever since, both for rich and poor nations. The activists of Global Trade Watch, arm in arm with other groups around the world, make this case persuasively in a new briefing paper. The demise of Doha, they argue, should restart the worldwide debate on new and more fundamental terms – more promising for people and less deferential to global capital.
"Instead of pinning blame on specific countries, the focus of energy should be on how the world's governments can develop a multilateral trade system that preserves the benefits of trade growth and development, while pruning away the many anti-democratic condstraints on domestic policy making in the existing WTO rules," Global Trade Watch explains. "Much of the backlash against coroporate globalization implemented by the WTO is aimed at the damage caused by the comprehensive one-size-fits-all, non-trade rules comprising the majority of the WTO text."
In blunt summary, the new approach means the following: Scale back the powers of the WTO so that human rights, environmental, labor and other public-interest standards can be adopted "as a floor of conduct for corporations seeking the benefits of global trade rules." In other words, bring other international organizations into the process, with power to enforce standards on everything from toxics to food security to worker rights.
The system, meanwhile, must loosen its grip on individual nations and governments so they can develop their own domestic priorities on non-trade issues. "Countries must be free to prioritize other values and goals above what are sometimes countervailing demands of multinational corporations," the briefing paper asserts.
This is an immense challenge and obviously difficult for brain-dead politicians to grasp and embrace. But it's also an exciting and promising new opening. Imagine that the collapse of the old order has occurred, though not yet acknowledged by its sponsors. "Another world is possible," as the activists like to say, and it has just become a bit more possible.
Minutes after I posted, the Washington Supreme Court issued its decision. Essentially, it went the way of New York State and tossed the issue back to the legislature. Here's the relevant quote:
"In reaching this conclusion, we have engaged in an exhaustive constitutional inquiry and have deferred to the legislative branch as required by our tri-partite form of government. Our decision accords with the substantial weight of authority from courts considering similar constitutional claims. We see no reason, however, why the legislature or the people acting through the initiative process would be foreclosed from extending the right to marry to gay and lesbian couples in Washington."
In the next few hours the Washington State Supreme Court will issue its decision in Anderson vs. King County, a lawsuit brought by 19 gay and lesbian couples challenging the constitutionality of Washington's Defense of Marriage Act. Coming off the heels of a defeat in New York State, the decision will be closely watched by gay marriage advocates and opponents alike.
According to lawyers I spoke with, the Court can decide to uphold the DOMA, strike down the DOMA and legalize gay marriage, or follow New York's footsteps and pass the issue to the legislature. I'll give you all an update (and hasty analysis) when the decision is announced.
Meanwhile, I want to announce the public debut of a major project I've been working on for the past few months. In April, I was part of a group of LGBT activists who met to discuss the dangers of the gay marriage debate as it's been framed in this country. There were some disagreements, but all of us agreed on a basic set of principles. We support marriage equality, but think that "marriage is not the only worthy form of family or relationship, and it should not be legally and economically privileged above all others."
We wrote a manifesto of sorts called Beyond Same-Sex Marriage. And as today it's been endorsed by Gloria Steinem, Dorothy Allison, Cornel West, Michael Lerner, Barbara Ehrenreich, Laura Flanders, The Nation's own Betsy Reed, Judith Butler, Joan Scott, Charlotte Bunch, Leslie Feinberg, Craig Lucas, Armistead Maupin, Terrence McNally, Paula Vogel, Susie Bright and a raft of others. So go to our website, read the statement and add your name. It's www.beyondmarriage.org.
Molly Ivins is trying to get Democrats excited about the prospect of running Bill Moyers for president.
"Dear desperate Democrats," the nation's most widely-read liberal newspaper columnist begins her latest missive. "Here's what we do: We run Bill Moyers for president. I am serious as a stroke about this. It's simple, cheap, and effective, and it will move the entire spectrum of political discussion in this country. Moyers is the only public figure who can take the entire discussion and shove it toward moral clarity just by being there."
Ivins makes a great case for why her fellow Texan ought to be on the ballot in 2008.
"Bill Moyers has been grappling with how to fit moral issues to political issues ever since he left Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and went to work for Lyndon Johnson in the teeth of the Vietnam War," she writes. "Moyers worked for years in television, seriously addressing the most difficult issues of our day. He has studied all different kinds of religions and different approaches to spirituality. He's no Holy Joe, but he is a serious man. He opens minds--he doesn't scare people. He includes people in, not out. And he sees through the dark search for a temporary political advantage to the clear ground of the Founders. He listens and he respects others."
After making her case, however, Ivins adds what appears to be the "reality" section:
"Do I think Bill Moyers can win the presidency? No, that seems like a very long shot to me. The nomination? No, that seems like a very long shot to me."
Ivins wants Moyers to make a sympbolic run, with the purpose of shaking up the Democratic party, and perhaps the nation.
"It won't take much money -- file for him in a couple of early primaries and just get him into the debates," the columnist explains. "Think about the potential Democratic candidates. Every single one of them needs spine, needs political courage. What Moyers can do is not only show them what it looks like and indeed what it is, but also how people respond to it. I'm damned if I want to go through another presidential primary with everyone trying to figure out who has the best chance to win instead of who's right. I want to vote for somebody who's good and brave and who should win."
But why limit this quest?
Why ask Democratic primary voters to send a message when they can send the best man into the November competition and, if the stars align correctly, perhaps even to the White House?
With all due regard to one of the finest journalists and finest Americans I know, I respectfully disagree with Molly Ivins -- not on the merits of a Moyers candidacy, but on the potential.
I'm not suggesting that Bill Moyers -- with whom I've had the pleasure of working in recent years on media reform issues -- is a sure bet to win the Democratic nomination or the presidency in 2008. I'm not even suggesting that he would be a good bet. But the politics of 2008 are already so muddled, so quirky and so potentially volatile that I believe -- as someone who has covered my share of presidential campaigns -- that Moyers could be a contender.
Moyers would enter the 2008 race with far more Washington political experience than Dwight Eisenhower had in 1952, far more national name recognition than Jimmy Carter had in 1976 and far more to offer the country than most of our recent chief executives.
Against the candidates who are lining up for the 2008 contest, Bill Moyers and his supporters would not need to make any excuses.
After all, the supposed Democratic frontrunner is a former First Lady who ran her first election campaign just six years ago. One of the leading Republican contenders is a guy whose main claim to fame is that he did a good job of running the Olympics in Salt Lake City, while another is still best known as the son of a famous football coach. And the strongest Republican prospect, John McCain, is actually more popular with Democrats than with his own partisans.
Consider the fact that a professional body builder is the governor of the largest state in the union, and that the list of serious contenders for seats in Congress and for governorships this year is packed with retired athletes, former television anchorpersons and bored millionaires, and it simply is not that big a stretch to suggest that someone with the government and private-sector experience, the national recognition and the broad respect that Bill Moyers has attained across five decades of public life could not make a serious run for the presidency.
So, Molly, I'll see your suggestion of Bill Moyers, and up the ante to suggest that Moyers really could be a contender.
Today, a bipartisan American Bar Association task force released its report challenging George Bush's flagrant misuse of signing statements to circumvent the constitutional separation of powers.
Bush has issued more than 800 challenges to provisions of passed laws (more than all previous presidents combined) and he has asserted "his right to ignore law." Among the areas of laws Bush has threatened through this "shortcut veto" are the ban on torture, affirmative action, whistleblower protection, and limits on use of "illegally collected intelligence."
The 10 member ABA panel includes three well-known conservatives, including Mickey Edwards – a former Republican Congressman who places protecting the Constitution above lock-step partisanship. Edwards, a former chair of the American Conservative Union and a founding trustee of the Heritage Foundation, is a true maverick whose recent article in The Nation signals his commitment to protecting our constitutional design. "The President. " Edwards wrote, [has] "chosen not to veto legislation with which he disagreed – thus giving Congress a chance to override his veto – but simply to assert his right to ignore the law, whether a domestic issue or a prohibition against torturing prisoners of war."
Task force member Bruce Fein, who served in the Reagan administration, concurs: "When the president signs a bill and says he is not going to enforce parts of a bill that he finds unconstitutional, it is in effect an absolute veto, because the Congress has no power to override him."
According to The Washington Post, panel members wrote: "The President's constitutional duty is to enforce laws he has signed into being unless and until they are held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court or a subordinate tribunal. The Constitution is not what the President says it is."
The panel is recommending legislation that would require a president to publicly disclose his intention to not enforce any law, including "the reasons and legal basis for the [signing] statement." A second piece of legislation would enable Congress or individuals to seek judicial review in the event that a president claims the authority to not enforce "a law that he has signed or interprets a law in conflict with the clear intent of Congress."
ABA President Michael Greco underscores the importance of these recommendations: "We will be close to a constitutional crisis if this issue…is left unchecked."
As Edwards writes, "… the real issue at stake is not one of presidential policy but of the continued viability of the separation of powers, the central tenet in America's system of constrained government."
This is a critical first step toward reining in presidential power run amok. Certainly more needs to be done, especially as a complicit GOP tries to make legal what should not be – such as the warrantless wiretapping legislation the White House is now seeking.... Which brings us to November.
While one might not agree with all that the Democrats are doing (and I don't), and might wish for more leadership on core issues like the Iraq War and sanity in the Middle East (leadership such as that demonstrated recently by two dozen congressional leaders calling for a cease-fire)…. We MUST restore the checks and balances to counter the one-party state we now live in, especially at this moment when the Republican Party is arguably the most extreme of any governing majority in the nation's history.
Get involved in your Congressional and Senate races. Help stop the madness of King George.