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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dick Cheney's imperial presidency.

Charlie Savage, who has been covering the White House's extraordinary expansions of presidential power for the Boston Globe, offers a disturbing portrait of Vice President Dick Cheney, the architect of President Bush's imperium. Savage reviews Cheney's career and the ideas he has promoted ever since Donald Rumsfeld hired him way back in 1969. He writes:

The Iran-contra scandal was not the first time the future vice president articulated a philosophy of unfettered executive power — nor would it be the last. The Constitution empowers Congress to pass laws regulating the executive branch, but over the course of his career, Cheney came to believe that the modern world is too dangerous and complex for a president's hands to be tied. He embraced a belief that presidents have vast "inherent" powers, not spelled out in the Constitution, that allow them to defy Congress.

Cheney bypassed acts of Congress as defense secretary in the first Bush administration. And his office has been the driving force behind the current administration's hoarding of secrets, its efforts to impose greater political control over career officials, and its defiance of a law requiring the government to obtain warrants when wiretapping Americans. Cheney's staff has also been behind President Bush's record number of signing statements asserting his right to disregard laws.

A close look at key moments in Cheney's career — from his political apprenticeship in the Nixon and Ford administrations to his decade in Congress and his tenure as secretary of defense under the first President Bush — suggests that the newly empowered Democrats in Congress should not expect the White House to cooperate when they demand classified information or attempt to exert oversight in areas such as domestic surveillance or the treatment of terrorism suspects.

And if that story doesn't make you feel warm and fuzzy about the tyrants in the executive branch, read Jeffrey Toobin's New Yorker article about how Sen. Arlen Specter finally caved in to White House pressure and gave up on habeas corpus in the vote on the Military Commissions Act on September 28. Habeas corpus is that teeny, tiny, insignificant 800-year-old foundational legal principle written into Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution — "the principal means in Anglo-American jurisprudence by which prisoners can challenge their incarceration," Toobin explains — that Cheney et al. think the amazing war on terror has rendered obsolete. See, the White House believes it should be able to capture any non-citizen, anywhere in the world, at any old time, and keep them locked up without charge for as long as they deem appropriate — and the detainee should never be allowed to sue. Because, as we have seen, our government is so trustworthy! Who needs checks and balances when we have a leader as wise as Dick Cheney.

("Hail to the chief: Dick Cheney's mission to expand — or 'restore' — the powers of the presidency," Charlie Savage, Boston Globe 11.26.06, reg req'd; "Killing habeas corpus: Arlen Specter's about-face," Jeffrey Toobin, New Yorker 12.4.06; earlier at Philocrites: "Dick Cheney's omnipotent hand" 5.29.06)

Copyright © 2006 by Philocrites | Posted 29 November 2006 at 7:48 AM

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Doug Muder:

November 29, 2006 08:12 AM | Permalink for this comment

I wish more Americans understood this much: Without habeas corpus you have no other rights.

Habeas corpus says that the government can't arrest you without justifying the arrest before a neutral judge. That hearing is where you can claim your rights. If you don't get that hearing, you're back in your cell talking to yourself about your rights.

The next thing to understand is this: If ANYBODY doesn't have habeas corpus, EVERYBODY is in danger. It works like this: I get arrested and demand a hearing -- I'm an American citizen, the law says I get a hearing.

The government says: "No, you're Abu Ali Hamad, a Pakistani terrorist. You don't have habeas corpus rights in this country."

I insist that I'm an American, and the government answers: "Tell it to the judge. No, wait Mr. Hamad, you don't get to tell it to the judge. Your waterboarding is scheduled for 10 a.m."

h sofia:

December 3, 2006 09:10 AM | Permalink for this comment

Where are the conservatives on this one? This doesn't seem like a partisan issue to me, and yet I only hear liberals talking about it in any way that expresses concern.

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