Tuesday :: May 23, 2006

Nightmares Of The Long Knives On Pennsylvania Avenue

by pessimist

Ever since the House lamely allowed the Supremem Court Jesters to usurp its Constitutional mandate as the ultimate decider of dubious electoral returns, it has been becoming more clear by the day that no one is in charge of the asylum - not even the inmates:

President grabs power while Congress sleeps
By ROBYN E. BLUMNER, Times Perspective Columnist
May 21, 2006

America's magnificence lies in its grounding principle that power must be diffuse. We built a system based on the assessed fallibility of man, where a president is limited by Congress, the courts and the Constitution. Bush represents the flag-wavers who are long on enthusiasm but don't have any real appreciation for the nobility of America. His disregard for the separation of powers has so dramatically distorted the office of the president that he may have engineered a turning point in American history.

Bush has disregarded America's well-tested formula of calibrated and collaborative governing. Nothing better illuminates Bush's contempt for American checks and balances than his abuse of the presidential signing statement.

According to a Boston Globe report, Bush has asserted the authority to disregard more than 750 laws by essentially writing provisos into them - a power he stole from Congress. The president's duty, as expressly stated in the Constitution, is to faithfully execute the laws he signs, not to add asterisks on parts he intends to ignore.

The power to write federal laws is Congress' alone. The Republican leadership in Congress is standing by while its house is being pillaged. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert are joining in their own emasculation when they utter not a peep during this bloodless coup.

Bush has taught tomorrow's leaders that, if there are no consequences for ignoring legal constraints on power and if no one stops you from conducting the nation's business in secret, you don't have to be accountable. I don't know why Republicans have a reputation for strength. A meek and pliant Congress is allowing this new paradigm to take root. Holding the executive branch to account for its actions, demanding that it respect the law and insisting that it fully report to Congress on its activities - these are nonnegotiable duties of Congress, because they are key part of our inheritance.

When blindly supporting a president from your own party
takes precedence over guarding Congress' historic role,
"Republican leadership" becomes an oxymoron.
It is not just liberals who have recognized the danger. I challenge anyone to read an important new report by the libertarian Cato Institute (www.cato.org) and not be chilled. "Power Surge: The Constitutional Record of George W. Bush" is an unblinking 28-page analysis of our slow devolution into autocracy. Its message can be summed up with this quote: "Under (the president's) sweeping theory of executive power, the liberty of every American rests on nothing more than the grace of the White House."

Our lawmakers are MIA. They have handed the game board to Bush, and he has taken it and gone home. He now controls his pieces and theirs.

But it wasn't their game to give away.

It was ours.

The 'nonnegotiable duties' of the Congress aren't the only things of which the members seem to no longer know. The conditions of life (death and taxes) under which their constituents survive also escape ther detection. While no one knows death except by experiencing it, there is no excuse for them not to know about taxes - the House is expected to initiate those bills. they should know who has to pay taxes - and how much they pay as well.

But the Speaker of the House has no idea:

Editorial: Clueless in the House
A Cap Times editorial
May 20, 2006

In the constitutionally mandated order of succession, House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., is two heartbeats away from the presidency. Unfortunately, Hastert is also two bricks short of a load.

During Wednesday evening's debate on the House budget proposal, Hastert, who famously proposed bulldozing New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit, announced that working families should not be looking for any tax breaks.

Why? Because Hastert does not think that working families pay taxes.
In the case of some politicians, a statement as wholly inaccurate as the one made by Hastert would inspire charges that he is lying. But Hastert is the Marie Antoinette of American politics. The fairest assumption is that he simply does not know who pays taxes in America.

Hastert, the dim bulb who was screwed into the speaker socket by Tom DeLay, lives in a world of managed spin. The only complaints he hears about an unfair and dysfunctional tax system which has shifted more and more of the burden onto those who have the hardest time making ends meet come from the wealthy campaign contributors who can buy a place beside Hastert at the tables of the swank Washington restaurants where the speaker kills time when he is not making embarrassing statements on the House floor.

So Hastert has his excuse, but what about the 217 other Republicans who voted for the House budget proposal, which passed the chamber by a 218-210 vote?

Notably, 12 Republicans joined 197 Democrats and Vermont independent Bernie Sanders in voting no on a document defined by the ignorance and cruelty of those who think the rich must be made richer, the poor must be made poorer, and the middle class must be made to pay more and more, in order to float their fiscal fantasies.

Just to clarify, working families pay federal income taxes, state and local income taxes, Social Security taxes, sales taxes, gasoline taxes and most of the other taxes that rich people pay. While some very poor families got a bit of tax relief during the Clinton years, working families of the sort Hastert was talking about still pay more than their fair share.
The people who do not pay their fair share are those very rich folks
to whom Hastert wants to give another tax break.

In the lower bunk in the Congress' Slumber Chamber lie the Democrats. Their snoring has been going on for so long, Rip Van Winkle long ago woke up and went bowling. The Dems have a chance at striking out of the frame, but there are doubts that they will make that hat trick. Everyone is instead expecting a gutter ball from them:

Dennis Hastert Gave the Dems the House, If They Want It
May 23, 2006

One of the things that the Republicans understand and the Dem leadership doesn't is staying on message and repeating the message until it is implanted in the heads of voters. Bush, in a rare moment of awkward clarity awhile back, said something like: "My job is to repeat the same message...I've got to catapult the propaganda." (We are not making this up.)
If the Democrats can finally create some message discipline,
Dennis Hastert just gave them control of the House of Representatives
in the fall election.
In a debate over extending tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, Hastert justified the rip-off of the middle class and poor with these words: "well, folks, if you earn $40,000 a year and have a family of two, you don't pay any taxes. So you probably if you don't pay any taxes, you are not going to get a big tax cut. Now, if you earn $1 million a year, you are going to pay about $400,000 of taxes. Maybe you'll get a $40,000 tax cut ..."
Message to Dems: Take this quote and run on it until the last vote is counted. You've been looking for an opening to the working families who can swing enough districts to retake the House, and Hastert just gave it to you.

Message to the Democratic poobahs with all the campaign cash: Don't get sidetracked, don't get distracted, don't get sucked into peripheral
issues with no voter traction. Fire the losing consultants and let Hastert give you back the House.

He already has. You just need to use his own words to remove him and the GOP from running Congress. It's a simple and winning message.

Will the Democratic leaders look a gift horse in the mouth, again?

Here's a pretty bow to go on the gift horse's bridle. Following this report, any Congress Critter who votes for such a proposed benefit bill can be shown to be out of touch with the angry American voter:

Rep. Doolittle Just Wants The Same Benefits Every American Doesn’t Have
Posted by Amanda
May 22, 2006

Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) was a regular at Jack Abramoff’s skybox at sporting events and guided his aides and family members to lucrative consulting jobs.

But evidently those perks weren’t enough. Since he entered office in 1991, he has tried to boost lawmakers’ compensation and benefits.

Doolittle argued members of Congress should have:

– "a corps of staff to assist the members, to perform routine tasks such as rides to airports, pickups, deliveries, etc;" – "an additional automobile" to use around the nation’s capital; and – government-funded moving expenses when they relocate to Washington, DC.
Doolittle’s spokesman, Dan Blackenburg, tried to justify the congressman’s efforts:
"He thinks that Members of the House, the staff and all federal employees should have the same benefits that all Americans are insured with," Blankenburg said, pointing out that federal employees, for example, currently don’t receive a dental or vision benefit.
Doolittle needs to get out of Abramoff’s skybox and talk to some real Americans.

41 percent of the American middle-class didn’t even have basic health insurance for part or all of 2005, and only 29 percent of companies now offer dental and vision benefits. (Statistics on how many Americans have a personal "corps of staff" to "perform routine tasks" were unavailable.)

Doolittle and his spokesman also need to check his federal health insurance program. While most plans don’t offer vision and dental benefits, some do. (New enhanced dental and vision benefits will also be offered to federal employees in the fall.)

But I suspect that Congress will be too busy protecting themselves from the fate being suffered by this possibly corrupt Democrat. When was the last time YOU heard Dumb Denny rise to defend a member of the opposing party?

Congressional Leaders Challenge FBI Raid on U.S. House Office
by Jonathan D. Salant and Laura Litvan
May 23

House and Senate leaders challenged the constitutionality of an FBI raid on Louisiana Democratic Representative William Jefferson's office in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill, saying it broke a 219-year precedent and raised concerns about the separation of power between the administration and Congress.

"The actions of the Justice Department in seeking and executing this warrant raise important constitutional issues," House Speaker Dennis Hastert, an Illinois Republican, said in a statement last night.

"I expect to seek a means to restore the delicate balance of power among the branches of government that the founders intended."

Have you forgotten all of those instances where you allowed Yore Sovereign to do your job for you, Denny?

Hastert said in his statement that every congressional office contains documents protected by the constitutional principle of the separation of powers. Those protections, and the independence of the legislative branch, "must be respected in order to prevent overreaching and abuse of power by the executive branch," he said.

OK - you've forgotten all those instances, but thanks for the sprinkles you added to this gift to the Democrats:

Hastert said the materials sought in the search of Jefferson's office had already been subpoenaed and that "all the documents that have been subpoenaed were being preserved."

We'll remember this when Fitzgerald searches your office, Hastert! He'll be stopping by when he's done with these two crooks:

The Jefferson case is one of several continuing criminal probes of lawmakers. Former Representative Randy Cunningham, a California Republican, is in prison after admitting accepting $2.4 million in bribes. Representative Robert Ney, an Ohio Republican, has relinquished a committee chairmanship because of a federal investigation into his dealings with former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican, will leave office next month after being indicted in a state fund-raising case.

But, in order to preserve what little credibility the Democrats have, they should do the following immediately:

Memo to Dem Caucus: Demand Jefferson's resignation
by VirginiaDem
May 23, 2006

(From the diaries. I agree wholeheartedly. No double standards. Corruption is corruption, no matter where it may arise -- kos)

To whom it may concern:

I've noticed that the Democratic campaign effort for 2006 is attempting to run against a Republican "culture of corruption" this year. I understand where you're coming from - between the Abramoff and MZM scandals, there is plenty of grist for that mill.

However, a certain Democratic congressman is undermining this effort. Rep. William Jefferson has apparently been up to no good - getting caught on tape (and with $90,000 in his freezer) in a bribery scandal. Despite the rock solid evidence compiled by the FBI, Rep. Jefferson still insists on running for office.

My plea is obvious. Tell Mr. Jefferson to resign immediately.
I want to see a full blown press conference with Democrats united in condemnation of this corrupt man - calling for him to resign immediately. And I want more than rhetoric.

* Strip him of his committee assignments.
* Pull support and sponsors from his bills.
* Cut off all ties between the party apparatus and his scandalous office. * Return any money he has given to the party, even if given in previous cycles.

Tell all Democratic candidates and officials that they must disassociate from him, too -- you cannot both support Jefferson's continued civil service while being a Democrat in good standing. Remove all of the benefits associated with being a Democrat. Don't send him a nickel, don't throw him a fundraiser, don't sit around silently hoping he'll go away - just show him the door.

Do what the GOP never did with DeLay and Cunningham (and won't do with Ney, Doolittle, Lewis, Ryun, Burns, Harris, Goode, etc.), take a stand. Send him (and all Democrats) a message - if you wilfully corrupt our democracy, the Democratic party wants you out of Congress. Men and women like you cannot be a representative of the Democratic party.

Do this, and you send a powerful (albeit belated) message to the country: The Democratic party stands strong against corruption. Otherwise, the "culture of corruption" theme will ring hollow, especially if this man is running for re-election in 2006.

If you truly care about ethics, the choice is obvious. And each day that passes, the danger to the party and its hopes in 2006 grow.

p.s. Whatever you do, don't act like a Republican.

You mean, don't protect those who deserve investigation - like John Conyers appears willing to do?

There’s no rush to impeach Bush
Conyers says he seeks proper congressional oversight
By John Conyers Jr.
Special to The Washington Post

One-party rule has dug our nation into a deep hole over the past six years. As Republicans have become increasingly nervous about whether they will be able to maintain control of the House in the midterm elections, they have resorted to the straw-man strategy of identifying a parade of horrors to come if Democrats gain the majority. Among these is the assertion that I, as the new chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, would immediately begin impeachment proceedings against President Bush.

It was House Republicans who took power in 1995 with immediate plans to undermine President Bill Clinton by any means necessary, and they did so in the most autocratic, partisan and destructive ways imaginable. If there is any lesson from those "revolutionaries," it is that partisan vendettas ultimately provoke a public backlash and are never viewed as legitimate.

I will not do that.
I have chosen to propose comprehensive oversight of these alleged abuses.
The oversight I have suggested would be performed by a select committee made up equally of Democrats and Republicans and chosen by the House speaker and the minority leader. The committee’s job would be to obtain answers — finally. At the end of the process, if — and only if — the select committee, acting on a bipartisan basis, finds evidence of potentially impeachable offenses, it would forward that information to the Judiciary Committee.
This threshold of bipartisanship is appropriate, I believe, when dealing with an issue of this magnitude. The allegations I have raised are grave, serious, well known and based on reliable media reports and the accounts of former administration officials. But none of these allegations can be proved or disproved until the administration answers questions. The administration’s stonewalling, and the lack of oversight by Congress, have left us to guess whether we are dealing with isolated wrongdoing, or mistakes, or something worse.

Considering how the Democrats are pussy-footing around this political landmine, that 'something worse' has already occured. The Congress should just vote itself out of existence like their predecessors did in Germany in 1933 and let George have it easy - since clearly he's already the dictator.

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