Unmentionables In The Sunshine
(Photo of laundry on a sunny clothesline via Austin Tolin. Love that sunshine.)
Bob Geiger has the Senate hearing schedule up at his blog, and one particular hearing note caught my eye:
But the meeting to watch this week takes place Wednesday when Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) presides over a hearing entitled “Responding to The Inspector General’s Findings of Improper Use of National Security Letters by the FBI” in Judiciary's Constitution subcommittee. Feingold may be the Senate's biggest foe of how Team Bush has trashed the U.S. Constitution and this one could be good for some fireworks.
The hearing is scheduled for April 11 at 2:30 pm ET, and I'm hoping that it will be televised for public scrutiny. Indeed, and given the track record of our Attorney General and some of the other Bush fealty minions who ought to have been providing safeguards for civil liberties rather than rubber stamps for roughshod behavior, it ought to be a very, very interesting hearing about a topic which has, for too long in this Administration, been unmentionable.
Never before in U.S. history, we believe, has a president so readily exploited a crisis to amass unchecked and unreviewed power unto himself, completely at odds with the Constitution. This departure from historical practice should deeply concern those in both parties who care for the Constitution. Even in military matters, Congress has considerable authority. For instance, the Constitution specifies that Congress can "make Rules for Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces." Military intelligence, military surveillance and military detention are all matters on which Congress can dictate the terms of how the commander-in-chief's power is exercised.
Debates at the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, and in the state ratifying conventions that ensued, conclusively undercut the current administration's claim to unaccountable power. Alexander Hamilton, the founding era's foremost advocate of executive vigor, disdained efforts to equate the new president's authority with the broad powers of the English monarchs. And even assuming that Hamilton was wrong in asserting that presidents have less power than English kings, the British monarchy had in fact been stripped of power to "suspend" parliamentary laws after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, about 100 years before the Constitutional Convention. The Constitution simply contains no unfettered executive authority to annul laws on a president's security-related say-so.
There is no reason to abandon the founding generation's skepticism of unchecked executive power. The Constitution rests on a profound understanding of human nature. Hamilton, James Madison and the other framers and ratifiers knew that no single individual, whether selected by birth or popular vote, could be blindly trusted to wield power wisely. They knew that both the executive and Congress would make mistakes….
Today's questions about presidential power are certainly not ones that have Republican or Democratic answers. The institutional imbalance that is evident today should trouble legislators of both parties.
Who could have possibly forseen a grasping, power-hungry, chief executive more interested in unilateral consolidation of control of the government than in the concerns of the governed? A large number of our nation's founding fathers, that's who. Here's hoping for a little history refresher on April 11th. We could sure use one.
Please do take a little time to read this. And think about the implications of the far-reaching actvity that has been going on for years of the Bush Administration without question or oversight or any judicial check. And then ask yourself whether you trust the Bush Administration and all of their political pinky swear fealty minions to use this power wisely and judiciously and only for proper, legal purposes.
While we are asking questions, Mark Kleiman would like to know exactly what the criteria are to add someone to the terrorist watch list these days. I'd like an answer to that one, myself, thanks. Here's to sunshine…
(And a heads up: I'll be on Sam Seder's Show on Air America Tuesday morning at 9:15-ish am ET.)