In some ways, our current President is actually claiming significantly more extra-constitutional power, vis-? -vis Congress and the courts, than Nixon did. For example, Nixon never claimed that he could imprison American citizens indefinitely without charging them with a crime and without letting the see a lawyer or notify their families. And this time, the attorney general, John Ashcroft, is hardly the kind of man who would resign on principle to impede an abuse of power. In fact, whenever there is an opportunity to abuse power in this administration, Ashcroft seems to be leading the charge. And it is Ashcroft who picked the staff lawyers at Justice responsible for the embarrassing memos justifying and enabling torture.
Moreover, in sharp contrast to the courageous 93rd Congress that saved the country from Richard Nixon?s sinister abuses, the current Congress has virtually abdicated its constitutional role to serve as an independent and coequal branch of government.
Instead, this Republican-led Congress is content, for the most part, to take orders from the President on what they vote for and what they don?t vote for. The Republican leaders of the House and Senate have even started blocking Democrats from attending conference committee meetings, where legislation takes its final form, and instead, they let the President?s staff come to the meetings and write key parts of the laws for them. (Come to think of it, the decline and lack of independence shown by this Congress would shock our founders more than anything else, because they believed that the power of the Congress was the most important check and balance against the unhealthy exercise of too much power by the Executive branch.)
This administration has not been content just to reduce the Congress to subservience. It has also engaged in unprecedented secrecy, denying the American people access to crucial information with which they might hold government officials accountable for their actions, and a systematic effort to manipulate and intimidate the media into presenting a more favorable image of the Administration to the American people.
Listen to what U.S. News and World Report has to say about their secrecy: “The Bush administration has quietly but efficiently dropped a shroud of secrecy across many critical operations of the federal government ? cloaking its own affairs from scrutiny and removing from the public domain important information on health, safety, and environmental matters.”
Here are just a few examples, and for each one, you have to ask, what are they hiding, and why are they hiding it?
More than 6000 documents have been removed by the Bush Administration from governmental Web sites. To cite only one example, a document on the EPA Web site giving citizens crucial information on how to identify chemical hazards to their families. Some have speculated that the principle threat to the Bush administration is a threat by the chemical hazards if the information remains available to American citizens.
To head off complaints from our nation?s Governors over how much they receive under federal Programs, the Bush Administration simply stopped printing the primary state budget report.
To muddy the clear consensus of the scientific community on global warming, the White House directed major changes and deletions to an EPA report that were so egregious that the agency said it was too embarrassed to use the language.
They?ve kept hidden from view Cheney?s ultra-secret energy task force. They have fought a pitched battle in the courts for more than three years to continue denying the American people the ability to know which special interests and lobbyists advised with Vice President Cheney on the design of the new laws.
And when mass layoffs became too embarrassing they simply stopped publishing the regular layoff report that economists and others have been receiving for decades. For this administration, the truth hurts, when the truth is available to the American people. They find bliss in the ignorance of the people. What are they hiding, and why are they hiding it?