Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Someone's Pants Are On Fire (Just Like His Boss's)

My Senator, Russ Feingold, continues to make a brilliant case demonstrating why he should be the next President, while Attorney General Alberto "Abu" Gonzalez continues to make a brilliant case demonstrating that no Bush administration official can ever be taken at their word.

From the Washington Post, via Holden at First Draft:

In a letter to the attorney general yesterday, Feingold demanded to know why Gonzales dismissed the senator's question about warrantless eavesdropping as a "hypothetical situation" during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in January 2005. At the hearing, Feingold asked Gonzales where the president's authority ends and whether Gonzales believed the president could, for example, act in contravention of existing criminal laws and spy on U.S. citizens without a warrant.

Gonzales said that it was impossible to answer such a hypothetical question but that it was "not the policy or the agenda of this president" to authorize actions that conflict with existing law. He added that he would hope to alert Congress if the president ever chose to authorize warrantless surveillance, according to a transcript of the hearing.

Apparently Gonzalez is experiencing memory loss comparable to, but not in excess of, that caused by organ failure, namely his brain. This revelation brings a few terms to mind for me; terms like "perjury" and "contempt of Congress". I guess when one supports torture and the abuse of executive power, merely lying to Congress doesn't stir one's conscience. Once again, the "party of moral values" at work.

The Congressional hearings on Bush's illegal domestic spying program begin next week and this revelation, along with the Glenn Greenwald's revelation that the Bush administration opposed expanding FISA in 2002, should make for some very interesting questions, at least from the Democrats. Obviously the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee will just bloviate about the imminent danger of destruction from the ravening Muslim Hordes, while feigning polite interest in the Constitution and Rule of Law. They wouldn't be caught dead opposing their Fearless Leader or their party, especially in an election year. Well, unless Bush's poll numbers continue to fall. Of course, they don't pay attention to polls, except when they do.

The right wing spin machine has been working overtime of late to paint the President's actions in terms of the "War on Terror" and to confuse the issue in the minds of the public. It will do them no good. Fortunately in the United States, whether or not someone has broken the law is not decided by popular vote.

It doesn't matter if Bush claims the NSA was only spying on Al-Qaida suspects and every person in America but myself believes him: he still broke the law. It doesn't matter if Bush feels getting a FISA warrant is too time-consuming: he still broke the law. It doesn't matter if Bush and Gonzalez consider the Fourth Amendment threshold of "probable cause" too unworkable: he still broke the law. It doesn't matter if the President presents a "signing statement" saying that he reserves the right to ignore the law in the interests of protecting the country: it's no less the law and he's still breaking it. The President has no authority to break the law. Ever. It's an open and shut case and grounds for impeachment.

Of course, we on the Left realize that all of the excuses for violating FISA and the Fourth Amendment that Bush and Gonzalez have used are all just window dressing. They're framing the debate away from what the real issue should be. We KNOW Bush broke the law and will continue to break the law: he's admitted as much. The real question is why does he insist on breaking the law? In light of the circumstances, the ease of getting FISA warrants and the administration's stance in 2002, the answer is simple. Bush and his handlers knew they wouldn't be able to get a warrant or get Congress to give them the authority for the scope of domestic spying that they're doing.

The primary duty ascribed to the President of the United States and, by extension, his appointees, is to uphold the Constitution. It's right there in the Oath of Office for the President. No matter what Bush or Gonzalez may think of FISA or the Fourth Amendment, ignoring either just simply is not an option in their line of work. If Bush feels the Fourth Amendment is too restrictive, then he should get a Congressman to sponsor an Amendment to change it. That's his only option under the law. This is the job he agreed to take and if he feels he can't do it as required, then it's high time for George W. Bush to resign the Presidency. If he cannot safeguard our laws and uphold our Constitution, then he cannot be President. Period.

No matter how much lying, spinning and obfuscating Bush and Gonzalez do, one fact remains: Bush knowingly and intentionally broke the law. He continues to break the law, unabashedly, and he has indicated his intention to break other laws if he feels the need. Gonzalez should be only too happy to defend Bush's intentions to violate the McCain anti-torture amendment; "Abu's" been down that road before.

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