President Temper Tantrum
Our spoiled, adolescent President threw a temper tantrum yesterday, because, he claimed, Congress is not giving him everything he wants. He charged that anyone who disagrees with his policies is the same as those who sought to appease Hitler and coddle Stalin. But not one of his extremist statements is true.
In a speech to adoring fans at the American Heritage Foundation, Mr. Bush made the following statements:
“Unfortunately, on too many issues, some in Congress are behaving as if America is not at war, . . . This is no time for Congress to weaken the Department of Justice by denying it a strong and effective leader. . . . It’s no time for Congress to weaken our ability to intercept information from terrorists about potential attacks on the United States of America. And this is no time for Congress to hold back vital funding for our troops as they fight al-Qaida terrorists and radicals in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Congress didn’t weaken the Justice Department. It was George Bush who installed his long-time crony, Alberto Gonzales, as Attorney General under whose corrupt and inept leadership the Department became deeply compromised. Despite repeated Congressional calls that Gonzales resign, it was Mr. Bush who stubbornly supported Gonzales as he and Bush’s senior political adviser Karl Rove politicized the US Attorneys, drove out experienced career attorneys and replaced them with party hacks, corrupted the Civil Rights/Voting Rights Sections, and compromised the Office of Legal Counsel. It was Bush and Cheney who insisted on surveillance procedures so unlawful they forced several senior DoJ officials — all conservative Republicans — to threaten to resign — which all of them eventually did.
After Gonzales’ corrupt tenure, Congress has a duty to demand that the next Attorney General be independent, honest and courageous enough to restore DoJ’s independence and integrity. Unfortunately, it now appears the man Bush nominated for Attorney General has already been compromised trying to obscure torture practices Bush ordered. Bush will not nominate anyone likely to find the President’s actions unlawful, and no nominee unwilling to consider these matters honestly should be confirmed as Attorney General. Bush, not Congress, is responsible for that awful dilemma.
Nor has Congress weakened the nation’s ability to conduct foreign surveillance. Even before Congress amended it last August, the FISA fully authorized the US to spy on all electronic communications in and out of the US, provided the surveillance occurred under a warrant obtained from the secret FISA court, either before or after the fact if time were short. When the Administration claimed it needed relief from the warrant requirement for purely foreign-to-foreign communications routed through US telecommunication facilities, the Congress gave that power — and much more. In its zeal (or panic) Congress gave the executive far more authority than it needs or is Constitutional.
The charge that Congress is insufficiently focused on our wars is incomprehensible; they’ve talked of little else since 2003, particularly the Administration’s intelligence deceptions and gross mismanagement.
Mr. Bush also lied when he charged Congress with failing to provide adequate funding for US troops. In six years of war, Congress hasn’t denied a single war funding request. Nor are there any plans by Congressional leaders to deny necessary funds in the future, although funding may be authorized in segments.
President Bush simply lied on every point. He’s behaving like a spoiled, petulant adolescent, blaming everyone but himself for his own failures and in denial about the wreckage caused by his own policies. Without impeachment, there is little the country can do about such childish behavior.
America is stumbling along with a severely dysfunctional government. We have an incompetent, dishonest, and lawless Administration led by a deeply flawed President and war-crazed VP. We do not always have a working majority of responsible adults in Congress, and there are only scattered individuals within the executive with whom Congress can work on a cooperative basis. The country senses the crisis and is deeply dissatisfied with its government and the direction the country is heading.
Without a veto-proof majority, nothing worthwhile can be accomplished until his Administration is removed from office. Congress has an obligation to try to keep the government working as best it can until this horror of a Presidency ends; they have an obligation to prevent the Administration from starting another war and doing any further harm to the country, its allies and its interests. The current leadership may not be up to this unprecedented task, but it’s all we’ve got for now.
Until 2008, Congress has no reason to accede to any of this President’s demands regarding Mukasey or to give in to his petulance, fear-mongering and bullying. On any requests that are not absolutely essential, they should just say no.
UPDATE: Various comments suggest Chuck Schumer might want to hear from us about Mukasey. Here are the numbers to call: (202) 224-6542 or (212) 486-4430. (h/t jayackroyd)
Photo: Bush speaks to Heritage Foundation, November 1; AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais