While the name "George W. Bush" will not be on the ballot this November, the damage the forty-third President has done to the Constitution will abide long after he retires to Crawford. No President in history has doned a veil of such swallowing secrecy on its activities, both foreign and domestic. No President in history has demonstrated as much distrust in the American people. And no President in history has wielded executive privilege with such reckless abandon.
Bruce Fein, associate deputy attorney general in the Reagan administration, wrote in a letter to the House Judiciary Committee that under Bush's tenure, "The executive branch has vandalized the Constitution every bit as much [sic] the barbarians vandalized Rome in 410 AD." Rove's refusal to comply with a Congressional subpoena compelling his testimony about the politicization of the Department of Justice and the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman is just the latest example. Each time these acts go unanswered, the Congress is diminished. It's coequal stature has already been compromised.
(Cross-posted from Our Republic)
President Bush has stated unequivocally that he had nothing to do with the U.S. attorney scandal, the outing of CIA operative Valeri Plame, the destruction of CIA videotapes of detainee interrogations, and the prosecution of Gov. Siegelman. This is precisely why the President's claims of executive privilege are so ludicrous. Communications between current or former aides of the White House and an executive department, of which the President has no knowledge, are a hard sell on executive privilege grounds. When such communications concern potentially illegal activities, of which the President would disapprove (if he knew) or, in any case, could not by law authorize, claims of executive privilege fall by the wasteside.
Should Congress again refuse to mount a serious challenge to what Fein calls, "the executive branch's counter-constitutional theory of executive privilege," it may well "sound the death knell of congressional oversight and the public's right to know what their government is doing and why." It was Congress's unwillingness to shirk its constitutional obligations that brought White House counsel John Dean before them to testify, and exposed the full extent of President Nixon's scandal. What if they had instead just ceded the field?
When historians look back on the presidency of George W. Bush, what will they say of the Democratic Congress sent to challenge him? That each member fully and faithfully discharged their oaths to support and defend the Constitution -- or that they stood idly by while the promise of our forefathers and the possibilities endowed to us faded from consciousness?