When the Media wonders why bloggers have a great deal of contempt for them, I like to point out stories like this one
in Newsweek. This story shows such a lack of understanding of the Constitution, our system of government and history that you wonder if anyone at Newsweek could pass a citizenship test. Look how idiotically Evan Thomas and Daniel Klaidman frame the illegal domestic surveillance by the Bush Administration - done in the face of an express prohibition enacted by the Congress - FISA:
In a perfect democracy trying to strike a balance between civil liberties and national security, there would be reasoned, open debate between representatives of the different branches of government. But human nature and politics rarely work in neat and orderly ways. In moments of crisis, presidents, if they believe in executive power (and most inevitably do), will do almost anything to protect the country. Only after the crisis ebbs does the debate begin over the proper means and ends, and by then the people and their representatives are often shocked to find what the president has done in the name of protecting them. More than four years after September 11, America finds itself debating some of the oldest issues in our history: how to balance liberty and security, how much power we should cede to the White House and whether what the historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. dubbed "The Imperial Presidency" amid Watergate is a good thing, a bad thing or something in between.
What morons. We are not debating "how much power we should cede the White House." There is no debate. The Constitution provides for that. Last I looked, no one has proposed a constitutional amendment.
On Bush's illegal domestic warrantless surveillance, no one is debating how to "strike a balance between civil liberties and national security." That debate is the Patriot Act debates - the previous one in 2002 and the current one raging.
Indeed, there is no real debate about the Bush Administration's illegal acts. No serious person is adopting or defending the nonsensical views of John Yoo and Dick Cheney that the War on Terror has made Bush King. The defenses are preposterous and everyone who knows a little bit about the subject knows there is no serious debate.
The ACTUAL debate is simply this, Dick Cheney says:
Geoffrey Stone, a law professor at the University of Chicago, said he found the issue straightforward, at least as regards surveillance by the National Security Agency. "Some legal questions are hard," Stone said. "This one is not. The president's authorizing of NSA to spy on Americans is blatantly unlawful and unconstitutional."
Cheney took the opposite view, noting that he has been expressing his views on the subject as far back as 1987 when, as a member of the House, he contributed to the minority views in the congressional report on the Iran-Contra scandal. "Part of the argument in Iran-Contra was whether or not the president had the authority to do what was done in the Reagan years," he said. "And those of us in the minority wrote minority views that were actually authored by a guy working for me, one of my staff people, that I think are very good at laying out a robust view of the president's prerogatives with respect to the conduct of especially foreign policy and national security matters." Asked if the proper balance had been restored under Bush, he said, "I do think it's swung back."
The Supreme Court of the United States said this:
[The Government's position] cannot be mandated by any reasonable view of the separation of powers, as this view only serves to condense power into a single branch of government. We have long since made clear that a state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the Nation's citizens. Youngstown Steel and Tube, 343 U.S. at 587. Whatever power the United States Constitution envisions for the Executive in times of conflict with other Nations or enemy organizations, it most assuredly envisions a role for all three branches when individual liberties are at stake.
This Newsweek article pretends to review the historical record of Presidential power in wartime. And yet the basic issue escapes them. Never ever before has the President argued he can defy express Congressional mandates on policy. Even in the Iran Contra scandal, the Reagan Administration argued in minute detail the many changes and differing time periods of the legislation barring assisting the Contras, the Boland Amendment(s). Here there is no such subtlety or rationalization. "Article II" scream the President's defenders, as if this issue is not the subject of well established Constitutional doctrine. Newsweek understands none of this, or at the very least, none of this makes its way into this travesty of an article.
The debate suggested by Newsweek is whether War makes Presidents Kings? But there is no such debate. Or there never has been until the worst President in history took office. Unfortunately for us, it appears some of the worst journalists in history are sharing his tenure.
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