Monday :: Dec 26, 2005

The True Conservatives Check In


by pessimist

As if the last five years haven't proven the case, there is no way that the country will ever regain control from Bu$hCo without the support of True Conservatives. There have been some notables already involved, such as John Dean and Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

But with the latest revelations of the excesses of King George, more True conservatives appear to be remembering that their nation deserves their protection as well as that of the Left for raising the alarm in the first place. Now that these excesses are out in the open, and clearly in violation of the Constitution or some other laws, there is no more cause for making excuses. These excesses aren't just going to affect the enemies of the United States, but they will in fact affect everyo citizen of this nation.

Conservative columnist Steve Chapman presents the case that Bu$h is deliberately breaking the law of the land:

Beyond the imperial presidency
Steve Chapman
Published December 25, 2005

The disclosure that the president authorized secret and probably illegal monitoring of communications between people in the United States and people overseas again raises the question: Why?

President Bush is a bundle of paradoxes. He thinks the scope of the federal government should be limited but the powers of the president should not. But the theory boils down to a consistent and self-serving formula: What's good for George W. Bush is good for America, and anything that weakens his power weakens the nation. To call this an imperial presidency is unfair to emperors.

Even people who should be on Bush's side are getting queasy. David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, says in his efforts to enlarge executive authority, Bush "has gone too far." He's not the only one who feels that way.

What we have now is not a robust executive but a reckless one. At times like this, it's apparent that Cheney and Bush want more power not because they need it to protect the nation, but because they want more power. Another paradox: In their conduct of the war on terror, they expect our trust, but they can't be bothered to earn it.

Bush bridles at the notion that the president should ever have to ask permission of anyone. He claims he can ignore the law because Congress granted permission when it authorized him to use force against Al Qaeda. But we know that can't be true. Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales says the administration didn't ask for a revision of the law to give the president explicit power to order such wiretaps because Congress--a Republican Congress, mind you--wouldn't have agreed. So the administration decided: Who needs Congress?

As Chapman states, he's not the only one who feels that way. This next post looks at some of the conservative publications that are raising the issue of impeachment as a necessary action to be taken.

Some Conservatives, While Discussing Bush's Surveillance Program, Mentioning Dreaded "I" Word

It's one thing when a liberal politician or publication mentions the word "impeachment" in reaction to President Bush allowing and then defending warrantless domestic surveillance. But some very un-liberal sources are also mentioning the dreaded "I" word.

Consider that un-liberal publication, Barron's. On its website, Barron's Online, this was posted on Dec. 24 by the editors:

"Willful disregard of a law is potentially an impeachable offense. It is at least as impeachable as having a sexual escapade under the Oval Office desk and lying about it later. The members of the House Judiciary Committee who staged the impeachment of President Clinton ought to be as outraged at this situation. They ought to investigate it, consider it carefully and report either a bill that would change the wiretap laws to suit the president or a bill of impeachment."

And on the Dec. 20 edition of NPR's Diane Rehm Show, former Bruce Fein, deputy attorney general in the Reagan Administration, said:

"On its face, if President Bush is totally unapologetic and says I continue to maintain that as a war-time President I can do anything I want – I don’t need to consult any other branches – that is an impeachable offense. It’s more dangerous than Clinton’s lying under oath because it jeopardizes our democratic dispensation and civil liberties for the ages. It would set a precedent that … would lie around like a loaded gun, able to be used indefinitely for any future occupant."

On the same show, conservative pundit Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute added:

"I think if we’re going to be intellectually honest here, this really is the kind of thing that Alexander Hamilton was referring to when impeachment was discussed."

Also noteworthy were Dec. 16 comments from from Republican Congressman Bob Barr (R-GA), who spoke on the Dec. 16 edition of CNN's The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer. (You can watch the video here.)

Although Barr doesn't mention "impeachment," his tone is nonetheless very clear as he debates Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA):

"Here again, this is absolutely a bizarre conversation where you have a member of Congress saying that it's okay for the president of the United States to ignore U.S. law, to ignore the Constitution, simply because we are in an undeclared war. The fact of the matter is the law prohibits -- specifically prohibits -- what apparently was done in this case, and for a member of Congress to say, 'oh, that doesn't matter, I'm proud that the president violated the law' is absolutely astounding, Wolf."


More on Bu$hCo malfeasance from THE SITUATION ROOM

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Just when President Bush was beginning to see a tiny improvement in those poll numbers of his, along comes this front-page story in the "Times" this morning that Mr. Bush signed a secret order in 2002 to authorize eavesdropping on Americans without first getting a warrant. Cute.

And to make matters worse, the "Times" says it sat on the information for a year at the request of the White House. Now, you don't suppose that this information could have influenced the outcome of the 2004 elections, do you? I bet it might've.

Meantime, the debate rages on over the Patriot Act, prisoner abuse, the CIA leak case, Supreme Court nominations, and indictments of some high-ranking members of the administration. It's not a very pretty picture these days.

Here's the question: If it's OK for the government to wiretap Americans' phones without a warrant, what's next?

An excellent question, Mr. Cafferty! Former Congressman Barr has some additional comments worthy of note, including a coupl of exchanges with Dana Rohrabacher:

BOB BARR, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: What's wrong with it is several-fold. One, it's bad policy for our government to be spying on American citizens through the National Security Agency. Secondly, it's bad to be spying on Americans without court oversight. And thirdly, it's bad to be spying on Americans apparently in violation of federal laws against doing it without court order. So it's bad all around, and we need to get to the bottom of this.

~~~~~

BARR: .... [T]he fact of the matter is that the Constitution is the Constitution, and I took an oath to abide by it. My good friend, my former colleague, Dana Rohrabacher, did and the president did. And I don't really care very much whether or not it can be justified based on some hypothetical. The fact of the matter is that, if you have any government official who deliberately orders that federal law be violated despite the best of motives, that certainly ought to be of concern to us.

~~~~~

ROHRABACHER: And by the way, how do we know who wasn't deterred from blowing up other targets. The fact is --

BARR: Well, gee, I guess then the president should be able to ignore whatever provision in the Constitution as long as there's something after the fact that justifies it.

ROHRABACHER: Bob, during wartime, you give some powers to the presidency you wouldn't give in peace time.

BARR: Do we have a declaration of war, Dana?

ROHRABACHER: You don't have to do that.

BARR: We don't? That makes it even much easier for a president.

~~~~~

ROHRABACHER: I have led the fight to making sure there were sunset provisions in the Patriot Act, for example. So after the war, we go back to recognizing the limits of government. But we want to put the full authority that we have and our technology to use immediately to try to thwart terrorists who are going to -- how about have a nuclear weapon in our cities?

BARR: And the Constitution be damned, Dana?

Apparently so! Rohrabacher's position, in my opinion, is that the end justifies the means, and no excess is too much 'since we are at war' - even violating the supreme law of the land.

But out in the hinterlands, things may not be playing quite as Bu$hCo would hope. There are signs that some Republicans are actually listening to their constituents, and following their lead, instead of leading the followers - opposing Bu$hco initiatives. There is no more demonstrative example than the Congressional Delegation from New Hampshire, where personal ambitions are weighed against public opinions:


N.H. Republicans drift from national party

With signs pointing to a resurgent Democratic Party in New Hampshire, the state's all-Republican congressional delegation is becoming increasingly at odds with the national Republican Party in a state that was long a GOP bellwether, according to an analysis of votes and other actions in Congress over the past year. The senators and congressmen say they are acting in the tradition of the state's libertarian brand of conservatism, even if the national GOP moves in a different direction.

Congressmen Jeb Bradley and Charles Bass voted for expanded stem cell research and opposed drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and Bradley notably declined to endorse Bush's Social Security plan. Bass and Bradley have done more than just oppose the party leadership on environmental issues; each has been at the forefront of efforts to prevent wildlife refuge drilling, a top energy priority for national Republican leaders. Their opposition forced Republican leaders to strip drilling from the budget this year, and another attempt to tack it onto the Defense bill failed last week in the Senate. [Also,] Bass joined Sununu last year in breaking with his party by opposing a constitutional ban to gay marriage.

Both House members have also publicly distanced themselves from Representative Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader who is under indictment; Bass is calling for new leadership elections to replace DeLay, and Bradley returned $15,000 in campaign funds he received from DeLay's political action committee.

Senator John E. Sununu opposed Bush's plan for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, joined a filibuster to insert civil liberties protections into the USA Patriot Act, and voted against his party leadership on several major spending bills. Sununu, the junior senator who won a hard-fought race in 2002 with 51 percent of the vote, also voted against adding a prescription drug benefit to Medicare, one of the president's signature accomplishments.

Even the state's senior senator, Judd Gregg, who is a member of the GOP leadership and generally backs the party's priorities, voted against the transportation bill and the massive energy bill that grew out of Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force.

But Democrats and some independent observers, pointing to the fact that Senator John F. Kerry beat President Bush in New Hampshire, and that Governor John Lynch, a Democrat, is the most popular official in the state, say the Republican senators and congressmen are trying to distance themselves from an increasingly unpopular national GOP. This is particularly true of Bass and Bradley, who were up for reelection next year in districts being targeted by the Democrats, said Andrew E. Smith, director of the University of New Hampshire's Granite State Poll. "They've stepped up the visibility of some of the things where they differ from the national Republican Party," Smith said. "Looking at recent elections and the demographics of the state, that makes a lot of sense for them. This is not a Republican state like it used to be."

Sununu said the defections from the party line result from the delegation's strong beliefs in the widely held New Hampshire convictions of limited government and fiscal responsibility. None of their votes represent a shift in position, or an attempt to run from the side of the president or GOP leaders, he said. "Our Republican Party, and the Democratic Party, from time to time has run afoul of those principles," Sununu said. "Members of the party who are comfortable with who they are are going to stand up for what they believe in."

Democrats have a different view. "I think they're scared. They can read the polls," said Kathy Sullivan, the chairman of the New Hampshire Democratic Party. Some older residents who have traditionally voted Republican are turned off by the conservative direction of the national party and are beginning to vote for Democrats, said Dante Scala, a politics professor at St. Anselm College in Manchester. By supporting Kerry by a one-point margin last year, New Hampshire was the only state in the nation that switched from red to blue in the presidential election. Democrats have now carried the state in three of the last four presidential elections, after a streak where Republicans won six straight. "There are a good number of Republicans in New Hampshire who wonder what happened to their party," Scala said.

Democrats have also won four of the past five governor's races -- the governor is on the ballot every two years in the state -- after Lynch edged out single-term incumbent Craig Benson last year. Last month's Granite State poll pegged Lynch's approval rating at 71 percent -- easily the highest of the state's major political figures.

Although many new residents moving from the Boston area are fleeing higher Massachusetts taxes and voting Republican, many transplants from mid-Atlantic states who are drawn by the state's booming economy bring their liberal predilections with them, said Smith. "New Hampshire is the last New England state to not go Democratic, and I think it will soon," Smith said.

That would be a surprise for the all-Republican New Hampshire delegation in Washington. Sununu scoffed at suggestions that New Hampshire is leaning in the direction of the Democrats. He attributed Kerry's win to the fact that the Massachusetts senator was already well-known to New Hampshirites who watch Boston TV stations. And last month, even as Democratic candidates fared well in races across the country, the Democratic mayor of Manchester -- New Hampshire's largest city -- lost to a Republican challenger.

"Has the electorate shifted significantly to the left or the right? No," Sununu said. "New Hampshire has always been a center-right, independent-minded, and somewhat libertarian electorate. Period."

The latest Granite State poll showed that the state's members of Congress have reasonably high approval ratings. But Bass and Sununu were viewed unfavorably by a greater portion of respondents than at any point since the poll was first taken in 2001. Bass was viewed unfavorably by 25 percent of respondents in his district, and Sununu by 29 percent statewide. That suggests that they're being harmed by their association with GOP leaders in Washington, Smith said.

Bradley allowed that he and his colleagues have significant areas of disagreement with the national party. He said votes that buck the party line are in areas where they are reflecting the desires of their constituents, he said. "I represent New Hampshire in Washington, and I take that the most serious of all the things that I look at," Bradley said. "People want to see frugal government, low taxes, a 'Live Free or Die' attitude. People want to balance the need to have a growing economy while protecting our environment."

And wouldn't it be nice if we saw some kind of recognizable effort of that sort! Alas, that isn't going to be until Republicans like the New Hampshire representation remember that the interests of their constituents has to be more important than the in a lot of cash to strew about.

The future of their nation is at stake. Let's see if more of those who have marched lock-step with Bu$hCo up to this point will answer the call to rescue their nation from totalitarianism.

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