Monday, December 26, 2005

Krauthammer on the "I-word:" SHUT UP, SHUT UP, SHUT UP!!

With the "I" word now being spoken by even the most sober and serious observers of American government and politics, George W. Bush's enablers and apologists feel the need to scream "Ix-nay on the impeachment alk-tay!"

Charles Krauthammer dares to articulate the dreaded word even if only to follow it up with a full-throated "SHUT UP, SHUT UP, SHUT UP!!!"

Administration critics, political and media, charge that by ordering surveillance on communications of suspected al-Qaeda agents in the United States, the President had clearly violated the law. Some even suggest that Bush has thereby so trampled the Constitution that impeachment should now be considered. (Barbara Boxer [D., Calif.], Jonathan Alter, John Dean, and various luminaries of the left have already begun floating the idea.) The braying herds have already concluded, Tenet-like, that the President's actions were slam-dunk illegal. It takes a superior mix of partisanship, animus and ignorance to say that.
Mr. Krauthammer might have added to his list of impeachment floaters the decidedly non-left-leaning Barron's magazine which is so disturbed by the president's extra-legal activities that it demands one of two things from congress [Available to Wall Street Journal subscribers only]:

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.

It is important to be clear that an impeachment case, if it comes to that, would not be about wiretapping, or about a possible Constitutional right not to be wiretapped. It would be about the power of Congress to set wiretapping rules by law, and it is about the obligation of the president to follow the rules in the Acts that he and his predecessors signed into law.
Nor are those calling for impeachment the only voices declaring Bush's actions an affront to law and democracy. Consider the words of conservative legal scholar Bruce Fein in, of all outlets, The Washington Times:

President Bush presents a clear and present danger to the rule of law. He cannot be trusted to conduct the war against global terrorism with a decent respect for civil liberties and checks against executive abuses. Congress should swiftly enact a code that would require Mr. Bush to obtain legislative consent for every counterterrorism measure that would materially impair individual freedoms.
Norman Ornstein, of the American Enterprise Institute asks if members of congress love their country enough to check the president's authoritarian inclinations:

But beyond oversight hearings, Congress should do two other things. First, it should re-pass the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, with its flat language that prohibits what President Bush did without the approval required by the special court, then send it to Bush. If he signs it, that would be a signal he accepts the reality of the law. If he vetoes it, and if that veto is overridden, as it surely would be, it would underscore for him the reality of the rule of law.

Second, Specter and the other members of Judiciary need to add one more important item to the Alito hearings. We need an extended exploration of the judge’s views of presidential power. If he is indeed a strict constructionist, he will say that, as the Constitution and the framers make clear, the inherent powers of a commander in chief do not allow presidents to act like kings or despots, whether under the pressure of war or through the claim of national security--especially if they invoke a war, like the war on terror, that will never end.
And, the Chicago Tribune which, as Media Matters points out, endorsed Bush for re-election, editorializes:

This may also be a violation of American law, which requires that a special court issue warrants for wiretaps on communications originating in the United States. Some officials familiar with the program said it is illegal. But a Justice Department memo took the radical position that the congressional resolution authorizing the president to act against Al Qaeda enabled him to use methods that were previously forbidden.

On Saturday, President Bush strongly defended the program, saying it has "helped detect and prevent possible terrorist attacks" here and abroad. Had the administration really believed it had congressional consent for spying on Americans at home, it could have asked for legislation to affirm that. It didn't, for the obvious reason that Congress would not have agreed.
Mr. Krauthammer's attempt to paint criticism of Bush's spying as mere partisan sniping smells strongly of desperation. Bush's presidency is in mortal danger and Krauthammer knows it. This is made clear by his effort to muddy the waters with an extended riff on the scope of Bush's authority as provided by the constitution.

But, quite by accident, Krauthammer eviscerates his own thesis in his final paragraph.

Contrary to the administration, I also believe that as a matter of political prudence and comity with Congress, Bush should have tried to get the law changed rather than circumvent it. This was an error of political judgment. But that does not make it a crime. And only the most brazen and reckless partisan could pretend it is anything approaching a high crime and misdemeanor.
Indeed. Bush "circumvented" the law protecting American citizens from illegal surveillance by their government. To put it another way, he "evaded" the law. To put it yet another, he "violated" the law. That does not make it a mere "error of political judgement." It makes it a crime, and a high one, at that.

2 comments:

phinky said...

Oh, this appeared in the Washington Post on Friday. I blogged about it. Charlie is definitely a wanker. He also justifies allowing the NSA to listen in on him. I like the part where he calls it "an error of political judgment" but nothing to impeach a president over. It's not like Bush lied under oath about getting a blowjob.

Ralph said...

Yes, we have here Krauthammer's take on illegal wiretapping in clear contravention of a law which permitted it to be done legally but with the approval of a (secret) court: And only the most brazen and reckless partisan could pretend it is anything approaching a high crime and misdemeanor.

But here is Krauthammer on September 28, 1998: Imagine how much better off Clinton would have been had he resigned in January with the truth. He might have been credited with a sense of honor. He might have been credited with genuine contrition. He would certainly have drawn enormous sympathy from people who thought he had been overpunished for a fairly minor offense.

According to Krauthammer, Clinton should have resigned in January of 1998 because of the Monica affair! I am sure K will now do the right thing and recommend the same course of action for Bush -- about whom he does not even bother to pretend that his was a "fairly minor offense."