July 20, 2007

waiting to exhale

As I begin this, Bush is supposed to have 549 days, 23 hours and 32 minutes left in office. I know this because I have a Bush Countdown Clock on my desktop. You can have one too, freely available from such sites as nationalnightmare.com. Think about that as a sign of the times. The vast majority of the people in America ask the same question: where are we going? And why are we in this handbasket? So much so that a wide variety of outlets offer Bush Countdown Clocks for installation on your desktop, so you can check to see how far down the road toward liberation we are when you boot up each morning.

As for his actual departure: I'll believe it when I see it. I find it comforting that the Republican Party has a field of presidential candidates. They seem to believe that the normal election cycle will be operative in 2008. That's how spooked I am about what this out-of-control maniac might be up to. God might tell him He needs George to stay on, to "finish His work." Under assault by the Democratic Party, Bush is not backing off. If anything, he seems determined to provoke a true crisis. This is a key distinction between Bush and Clinton. Clinton, as you'll recall, was so afraid of being impeached that he offered to cut deals with Congress to avoid it. Just censure me, he said, I know I deserve something. Clinton said this although there was never any danger of his actual removal from office. The votes weren't there. In the Senate trial, he actually received a majority vote for acquittal. Bush is well aware that on any given workday in the House of Representatives, a vote could be scheduled to impeach him. The simple majority is there. Bush doesn't give a shit, because he knows he can't lose in the Senate. Indeed, the sooner the impeachment proceedings begin, the better his chances of survival.

He's provoking another fight now over executive privilege. As I've written before, and as John Dean writing in Findlaw.com appears to concur, executive privilege would not seem to apply to deliberations of the Justice Department over the hiring and firing of personnel, and it certainly has nothing to do with the issues involved in the Pat Tillman case. In the latter situation, the White House seems to assert that its right to mislead the public about an accidental death in combat is a matter of national security.

Somewhere, in a dark cavern in the Executive Office Building or some such haunt, a shadowy character who goes by the name of David Addington is dreaming this stuff up. Addington graduated from Sandia High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1974, which strongly suggests that he might be the product of some sort of nuclear accident. Whatever, he has been joined at the hip to Dick Cheney for a very long time, including his tenure as Republican counsel during the Iran-Contra affair. He achieved early notoriety as the author of a "controversial" minority report on the scandal. You can probably imagine which way he tilted the controversy. He went to Duke Law School, and I suspect he is as smart and creative as Bush is dumb and robotic. All these recent crises seem traceable to Addington, including the spooky assertion that Cheney is his own branch of government, and now the argument that it is up to the Executive Branch alone to decide whether to allow the Justice Department in the District of Columbia to prosecute Harriet Miers or Karl Rove for contempt in refusing to appear before Congressional committees.

Among the unintended consequences of Patrick Fitzgerald's half-assed prosecution of Scooter Libby is that we got rid of Scooter and got stuck with this guy as Cheney's new Chief of Staff, bringing with him all his necrotic ideas about torture and the unlimited power of the Executive during "wartime." I think that Addington and Cheney have their own countdown clock, and what they've decided is to test the outer limits of the most absurd, disturbing Constitutional arguments they can come up with. I will confess that is probably every lawyer's dream. How nuts can I make this and still have a chance to win? That's the problem: the Executive Branch does control the Justice Department, it does appoint all the judges, it does have the system gamed. These screwy arguments can work because the people who will decide whether they're tenable or not are people who owe their jobs to Bush/Cheney & Co. Let us face it: with all deference to the flawless perspicacity of the Founding Fathers, this is a major hole in the system. While the effort was made to design a government that would survive even bad people running it, it might not work where the heads of state are determined to break it apart, and where no one seems to pay that much attention to their efforts. That is why conservative lawyers such as Bruce Fein, who served in the Justice Department under Ronald Reagan, and John Dean himself, have become such vociferous critics of Bush & Co. and their Constitutional depredations. They are aware of how outlandish, how dangerous these ideas are that are emanating on nearly a daily basis from Cheney and his mouthpiece. Somewhere in the cavern, you can hear their chilling laughter: moooooAAAAHHHHHaaaahhhhhaaahAAAAH. They have, according to my Countdown Clock, 549 days, 22 hours and 5 minutes to wreak unholy havoc. Don't think for a minute they won't use it.

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