Wednesday, July 19, 2006

"Unitary executive" power: honest belief, or flimsy excuse from the start?

This is one of the most significant stories of the week: Alberto Gonzales acknowledged before the Senate Judiciary Committee that President Bush personally directed the DoJ to deny security clearances to its own Office of Professional Responsibility lawyers so that they could not investigate the NSA warrantless domestic spying program - with the excuse that each extra person who knows about the program is another potential leaker; in other words, the ethics lawyers at the OPR can't be trusted. But when it comes time to investigate who might have leaked information about the program, a huge crowd of lawyers and non-lawyer investigators from a variety of agencies were given security clearances without a second thought, putting paid to the excuse for blocking out the OPR.

Not only that - as the ever-vigilant Glenn Greenwald points out, this clear dichotomy serves as evidence for a culpable mens rea in the White House. The excuse that so many people have named as a last resort - that even if the administration's actions are illegal, they were being pursued with a good faith belief in their legality - is in shambles.

Update - Froomkin also reviews the revelation, comparing it to Nixon's firing of Archibald Cox, and puts it all in perspective: Bush blocked an investigation into the possible unlawfulness of his own program. The OPR had never previously been blocked from making an investigation since it was founded, 31 years ago - amid the effort to protect against any recurrence of the Nixon debacle. How many more parallels will cast this administration as the second coming of Watergate?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The mark of the tipping point has arrived: the major media actually refrain from labeling any Bush critic as a liberal by definition

The Washington Post finally acknowledges that Conservative Anger Grows Over Bush's Foreign Policy, maybe after being prompted by yet another incisive blast of the Bush administration by their own George Will, although the category of conservative Bush critics is enormous and growing. Come to think of it, it's hard to think of any actual conservatives, in any definition under which that term was understood prior to the Bush administration, who remains an enthusiastic Bush supporter.

Of course, this Post article is discussing not the condemnation of the Bush administration's authoritarianism and lack of interest in the form of government established by the Constitution, but rather the disappointment in Bush's foreign policy dithering by the military ├╝beradventurers who for some reason are shelved on the conservative aisle these days. Even for the Kristol Krowd though, I can't understand why they still want the Bush administration to pursue any of their overseas objectives. Eliminating foreign threats and spreading democracy, per se, are excellent goals. But the Bush administration pursues these goals with such disastrous incompetence, and such offense to innocent bystanders and would-be friends and allies, that it is turning neoconservativism into a hiss and a byword to persist for the next two generations. I can't imagine a greater harm to inflict on their cause than to continue encouraging the present administration to serve as its champion.

Actually, their truest champion should be the leader behind the most successful recent intervention to act aggressively against a fascist dictator - who hadn't even attacked us - and promote democracy among the oppressed - that intervention being in Kosovo, where we accomplished those goals without a single American combat fatality, and that leader being Bill Clinton.

Speaking of alienation between the Bush administration and conservative principles, I'm going to be attending and blogging John Dean's visit in a few days, while he promotes his new book, Conservatives Without Conscience. Should be lots of fun.