The Censure Hearing of George W. Bush updated
|There are no Republicans
like Howard Baker today.
\”… We agree, we agree that the NSA
program is inconsistent with FISA. We agree that the authorization for the use
of military force did not grant the president authority to engage in warrantless
wiretapping of Americans on U.S. soil. We agree that the president was and remains
required under the National Security Act of 1947 to inform the full
intelligence committees of the NSA program, which, of course, the president
has refused to do. … Where we disagree apparently, is whether the president's
authority under Article II of the Constitution allows him to authorize warrantless
surveillance without complying with FISA. You have said this is a close question.
I do not believe he has such authority and I don't think it is a close question.
We will continue to debate that, I'm sure. But I think the very fact that you
have proposed legislation on this program tends to undermine your argument that
such presidential authority exists. Because if it does exist, then nothing we
can legislate, nothing, no matter how carefully crafted is worth a hill of beans.
… We can fight terrorism without breaking the law. … Mr. Chairman, the presence
of John Dean here today should remind us that we must respond to this constitutional
crisis on based on principle, not partisanship. … A little over 30 years ago,
a president who broke the law was held to account by a bi-partisan congressional
investigation by patriots like Archibald Cox and Elliot Richardson and, yes,
John Dean, John Dean, who put loyalty to the Constitution and the rule of law
above the interest of the president who appointed them. … - Senator
John Dean's presence in the hearing room brought back history
for me. Mr. Dean put principle to Constitution above his party and the president
he served. Today also made me remember the Republican Party of old, with the
likes of Howard Baker leading the pack. It reminded me that Baker's party, the
GOP of Barry Goldwater, is long dead. Hell, even the straight talk express is
now suck up central.
Republicans today acquitted themselves very poorly, in my opinion,
rubber stamp rhetoric spewing from their sycophantic lips. It was not a case
of profiles in courage, but pitifully obvious profiles of cowardice, based on
Senator Russ Feingold mentioned Glenn Greenwald today. He took
from the following post, citing John Mitchell, a fitting tale to tell today.
While we know that the eavesdropping ordered by President
Bush is exactly the eavesdropping which FISA makes it a criminal offense to
engage in, we do not yet know — thanks to the frenzied efforts of Bush defenders
to suppress any and all investigations into the Administration's eavesdropping
activities — the nature and extent of Bush's warrantless eavesdropping program.
We do not, for instance, know which Americans were eavesdropped on, how many
Americans were subject to this illegal surveillance, how it was determined
who would be eavesdropped on, what was done with the information, whether
purely innocent Americans had their communications intercepted without judicial
The White House has repeatedly assured us that there
is no reason for us to know any of this, and there is nothing for us to worry
about, because they are eavesdropping only — to use a The White House's formulation
— on the \”very bad people.\”
In that regard, John Dean is an excellent witness for
the hearings today, since he was part of an Administration which invoked exactly
the same rationale. According to this July 25, 1969 article from Time Magazine,
which was reporting on public fears over new surveillance powers given to
the Administration by the Congress, Nixon's Attorney General John Mitchell
told Americans they had nothing to worry about:
During his presidential campaign, Richard Nixon
said that he would take full advantage of the new law-a promise that raised
fears of a massive invasion of privacy. To calm those fears, the Administration
last week issued what amounted to an official statement on the subject.
In his first news conference since becoming the
President's chief legal officer, Attorney General John N. Mitchell pointedly
announced that the incidence of wiretapping by federal law enforcement agencies
had gone down, not up, during the first six months of Republican rule. Mitchell
refused to disclose any figures, but he indicated that the number was far
lower than most people might think. \”Any citizen of this United States
who is not involved in some illegal activity,\” he added, \”has
nothing to fear whatsoever.\”
I'm truly glad that Senator Lindsay Graham apologized for possibly
saying something rude to the witnesses, because I was appalled at his attack
on John Dean. He calmed down, which is good. He had embarrassed himself earlier,
scoffing at the notion that Bush breaking the law is worthy of his attention,
while mixing history with partisanship, as he ignorantly missed that Nixon's
main goal was to hide the break-in of Daniel
Ellsberg's psychiatrist's office, which Nixon believed threatened national
security. That Graham didn't know his history on the events was embarrassing
in the extreme. Mr. Dean set him straight, while Graham continued to impugn
Dean's credibility, not to mention his personal and factual knowledge of the
events to which he had first hand knowledge.
It's ironic that Republicans celebrate Gordon Liddy and Oliver
North, but find it necessary to impugn John Dean. Their selective vilification
remains hypocritical and abjectly disingenuous. Their scalliwags are okay. Dean's
courage to walk away from his political party and president, choosing loyalty to the Constitution first, not denting
their small little partisan minds.
But that's just my take, as someone who witnessed it all, saw
every second of the Watergate hearings, as a Republican who cast her very first
vote for Richard Nixon.
Graham stipulated that if Bush is censured the NSA program will
likely be stopped and that this would damage our ability to go after al Qaeda,
while also limiting other presidents to do their job under the Constitution.
This argument is as specious as it is ridiculous. What is he saying, that if
President Bush can't spy illegally he's going to take his wiretaps home in a
presidential pout? It's just not credible. I'm honestly amazed that Senator
Graham let his emotions run amok, allowing his humble House beginnings bubble
up, showing him as a petty southern punk, live and direct from C-SPAN.
Going back, Specter's opening statement offered that the hearings
are important because the issue under discussion should have gotten more attention
long before now. Excuse me, but duh. I've been very hard on Specter,
not believing he would offer a fair hearing. Feingold got his hearing today.
Specter did his job, which is more than can be said for Senator Roberts and
other Republicans, especially in the House. But getting excited about someone
in the president's party actually doing the job of oversight is tortured,
but that's where we are in the age of Bush and his rubber stamp Republican Congress. There are no Howard Bakers in Bush's Republican Party.
So, I am not willing to take away Specter's rubber stamp label, because he remains
unwilling to admit the obvious, that Alberto Gonzales won't answer simple questions,
while also choosing to ignore the fact that the gang of eight did not get a
full briefing, nor did President Bush comply with the National Security Act
of 1947. Four hearings is a beginning, but only a start. Specter is still giving
Bush the benefit of the doubt, hoping he will listen to the Judiciary Committee,
if, by chance, they write a law that brings the NSA program under FISA.
But as Senator Feingold said in his opening statement, if Bush's
Article II powers allow him to essentially make up laws as he goes along, including
issuing signing statements that make those laws unbinding, why is Senator Specter
proposing a law the president doesn't need, won't follow and doesn't feel is