Thursday, July 26, 2007

Executive Privilege

Even if you don't pay much attention to the news, you've probably heard the words "executive privilege" bandied around fairly often in the last few weeks. Citing executive privilege, Bush has forbidden his aides and other associates from responding to Congressional subpoenas, refused to provide information for ongoing investigations, issued an executive order to prevent the Justice department from prosecuting contempt charges, hidden all information about the friendly-fire death of a US soldier; pretty much anything that he doesn't want to talk about is suddenly covered by "executive privilege". Even Cheney, who a few weeks ago was claiming that he wasn't part of the executive branch, is happy to make claims of executive privilege when he doesn't want to come clean with the American public.

There are certainly things in the executive office that are covered by the rather nebulous concept of executive privilege -- but it is not meant as a get-out-of-jail-free card to avoid any and all transparency of the action of the executive branch. I'm all for making sure that national security is maintained, but this is beyond the pale.

Bush has invoked and expanded this idea to be a shield against everything. Generally, the idea of executive privilege means that the president's involvement in things can be shielded from public view, so that he can continue to do his job without constant interference and investigation. People aren't compelled to discuss conversations that had with the president. It isn't meant to cover any one who is even remotely associated with the executive branch -- waht Bush seems to mean when he claims "executive privilege" is that anyone who talks to him about anything is immune from Congressional subpoenas, even about matters which they did not discuss with him.

If Bush wasn't involved in the attorney firings (which have prompted a number of subpoenas and now contempt charges because Bush has told people in his administration to not respond to them) then Executive Privilege doesn't apply. If this was entirely within the Justice Department, and no wrongdoing was perpetrated...then Bush has absolutely no reason to invoke any kind of privilege for himself, adn certainly doesn't have the authority to claim it for others just because the outcome of the questioning might be embarssing for the administration. By claiming executive privilege, Bush is implicitly admitting involvement, which means that he was lying before when he said he wasn't involved. Either way, an unacceptable position.

The president does not have this power -- not by the constitution, not by generally accepted legal precedent -- not by assertion. It's astonishing, beyond astonishingto actually offensive, that the president thinks that he can simply disregard congress, disregard the American people, and disregard the law. He really does seem to believe that he's above the law and he can do anything that he wants, without fear of retribution, because he can simply bypass the laws by fiat whenever he wants to. I supposed the next step is just to get rid of the justice department and get rid of congress so the King can do whatever he wants.

Congress is not accepting this argument, as well they shouldn't. We -- the people -- deserve better than this.

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