Assault on Self-Government

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 5, 2008 | Go to article overview

Assault on Self-Government


Byline: Bruce Fein, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Alexander the Great had his self-deification. Napoleon had his self-coronation.

And President George W. Bush envies those examples.

Accordingly, he is attempting to summon into being a monarch-like presidency shielded from review or checking by We the People of the United States, who ordained the Constitution. President Bush's latest coups de main were commands to former White House counsel Harriet Miers and former White House political adviser Karl Rove to refuse to appear before Congress to answer questions about White House involvement in forced resignations of nine United States attorneys in late 2006 for pliable replacements eager to transform law enforcement into partisan politics by other means.

The public interest in knowing the character of United States attorneys and President Bush's reasons for their nominations or firings to inform their loyalties, energies or voting is compelling. Then-Attorney General Robert Jackson amplified approximately 60 years ago: "The prosecutor has more control over life, liberty and reputation than any other person in America. His discretion is tremendous. He can have citizens investigated and, if he is that kind of person, he can have this done to the tune of public statements and veiled or unveiled intimations. Or the prosecutor may choose a more subtle course and simply have a citizen's friends interviewed. The prosecutor can order arrests, present cases to the grand jury in secret session, and on the basis of his one-sided presentation of the facts, can cause the citizen to be indicted and held for trial. He may dismiss the case before trial, in which case the defense never has a chance to be heard. ... While the

prosecutor at his best is one of the most beneficent forces in our society, when he acts from malice or other base motives, he is one of the worst"

In Committee on the Judiciary, U.S. House of Representatives v. Harriet Miers, et al (July 31, 2008), President Bush argued to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia that current or former presidential advisers are crowned with absolute immunity from congressional oversight or accountability to the public. Otherwise, it was said, they would compromise their candor in providing presidential advice. But neither Miss Miers nor Mr. Rove submitted an affidavit to support that counterfactual conjecture. Indeed, no White House official in the history of the United States has ever avowed or insinuated under oath or in memoirs that absolute immunity from congressional oversight is necessary to secure candid presidential advice. The reasons are self-evident. No executive officer speaks to the president with an expectation of confidentiality. The president regularly waives any putative executive privilege, as President Ronald Reagan did in the congressional Iran-contra investigation. And executive branch leaks to the media pour forth like the Mississippi River at its high water mark. Former CIA Director George Tenet thus advises in At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA : I have a few tips for future CIA directors, and for anyone who aspires to participate in government at a similar level. First, you are never offstage. Anything you say can be used against you down the road to make someone else's point. That's the way Washington has evolved - there are no private conversations, even in the Oval Office.

United States District Judge John D. Bates, who was appointed by President Bush, derided the president's preposterous constitutional claim: The Executive cannot identify a single judicial opinion that recognizes absolute immunity for senior presidential advisers in this or in any other context. …

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