Bill Scher's LiberalOasis

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Category: Executive Power (page 1 of 2)

Investigations into the Bush administration

Because of Sen. Patrick Leahy calling for investigations into possible criminal behavior by the Bush administration, Gallup ran some polls. The results?

Question Criminal Investigation Investigation by independent panel Neither
Possible Attempts to use Justice Dept. for political purposes 41% 30% 25%
Possible use of telephone wiretaps without a warrant 38% 25% 34%
Possible use of torture in terror investigations 38% 24% 34%

For the full break down see Gallup.
What this clearly shows is that a majority of Americans want to see an independent panel put together to investigate the Bush administration at the very least. President Obama has stated publicly that he is more interested in looking forward when asked about these types of investigations. And of course he should. Attacking the previous administration would polarize Washington more than ever, virtually guaranteeing that the Republican Party would dig in their heels and become the “Road Block” Party.
But make no mistake about it, if the Executive Branch is never taken to task for illegal or immoral behavior then we will have abandoned the critical balance of powers that has made our country strong. The Nixonian idea that if the President does something it is by definition legal needs to be debunked once and for all. It is too dangerous a precedent to set.
We can’t wait for executive leadership on this issue, we have to use our voices as citizens to encourage our representatives on the hill to support investigations into the wrong-doings of the Bush administration. Write your Senator and Congressperson in support of Sen. Leahy’s call for a special commission to investigate the illegal behavior of the Bush administration. Without active pressure your representative may not put their neck out on this issue. Make your voice heard!

Whatta win $100 bucks?

Where’s the Outrage? is sponsoring a contest. What is the best Administration move to undermine our Constitution? Click, comment and quite possibly win a $100 gift certificate to!! The “best” entry wins the gift certificate.

We can figure this out

We have one more year of George W. Bush. Personally, I believe that we need to impeach the President and the Vice President. This isn’t a tit for tat but a defense of the constitution. The Democrats led by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have decided not to go down this road. I think that this is a mistake. When faced between defending the constitution and not wanting to be seen as divisive the Dems chose the latter. Constitution on this hand and ruffling feathers on this hand.
Here’s my case: Domestic spying. We were told after weeks of denial that this was a vital program. We have to be able to listen in on the terrorists. We have been told if a terrorist is calling America it is in our best interest to know who that terrorist is calling. Well, it turns out that the President wasn’t entirely honest with the American people. He didn’t tell us that he had been spying on Americans prior to 9/11. So, he’s spying had nothing to do with terrorists. It had everything to do with power. It had everything to do with I’m the President and I can do as I please. This has nothing to do with national security. This has nothing to do with chasing down terrorists. It is simply I’m President. I want to do this. So, I’m doing it. This is wrong on so many levels. The Church commission and the FISA courts that grew out of those hearings were started because they wanted to check presidential power.
Torture. Keith Olbermann had a GREAT special comment about torture last night. He said, ‘All the petulancy, all the childish threats, all the blank-stare stupidity; all the invocations of World War III, all the sophistic questions about which terrorist attacks we wanted him not to stop, all the phony secrets; all the claims of executive privilege, all the stumbling tap-dancing of his nominees, all the verbal flatulence of his apologists…
All of it is now, after one revelation last week, transparently clear for what it is: the pathetic and desperate manipulation of the government, the refocusing of our entire nation, toward keeping this mock president and this unstable vice president and this departed wildly self-overrating attorney general, and the others, from potential prosecution for having approved or ordered the illegal torture of prisoners being held in the name of this country.
‘Waterboarding is torture,’ Daniel Levin was to write. Daniel Levin was no theorist and no protester. He was no troublemaking politician. He was no table-pounding commentator. Daniel Levin was an astonishingly patriotic American and a brave man.”

So, out of nowhere comes a Department of Justice lawyer. He has himself waterboarded to see if it is torture or not. Daniel Levin was the man. He was brave and thoughtful. He was exactly the kind of lawyer that would right now be on the streets demonstrating in Pakistan if he lived in that country. Instead, he did his job. He was writing a memo stating that Waterboarding is torture when he was fired, released, booted or silenced by Alberto Gonzales. The United States declared waterboarding torture back in the 1940’s.
Isn’t shredding the Constitution of the United States an impeachable offense? (I did an interview with Bruce Fein, constitutional lawyer who drew up articles of impeachment on Bill Clinton and wants Congress to impeach President Bush.)

Domestic Spying is legal, isn’t it?

First of all, let me say that I am really truly honored to be a guest blogger on LiberalOasis. Early in 2004, something just seemed rotten. I was living in Tyler, Texas (that wasn’t the rotten part). Everyone, I mean, everyone was jazzed about the prospect of George W. Bush being reelected. It seemed as if I was in some Twilight Zone episode. I began to look around and try to find something to read that was liberally biased. One of the first blogs that I found was the LiberalOasis. It was like taking a breath of fresh air after being underwater for too long.
So, what should my first post be about? Mercenary contractors? Condoleezza Rice was on Capitol Hill trying to defend the indefensible. Her argument, which should sound familiar, is that mistakes were made (it is always understood that she didn’t make any mistakes) and that they’re working to correct those mistakes. Richard Griffin who was the Director of the Diplomatic Security Bureau resigned yesterday. Sound familiar? New rules which are not enforceable are being talked about in Washington. I have a fundamentally larger question, should we have guys with high powered rifles and assault weapons running around a foreign country in the name of the United States? These same men do not seem to be responsible to any government entity. Oh, and another question, when have we ever farmed out some task to a private company and the cost actually decrease? I’m not talking about decreasing for year or two but I’m talking about over the long haul. Whether it is prison systems or road construction work or anything?

No, what I really want talk about is the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The US Congress is looking at this act not for the third or fourth time but yet if I’m not mistaken this the eighth time this law has been amended since 2001. Someone please help me understand why it takes eight times to amend the law. Unless, the administration never asked for exactly what they want. Instead, and I believe this to be fact, the administration comes back and asked for a little bit more every time. They want a little bit more leeway. They want a little less oversight. That is what’s going to make us safe. That is the administration’s argument. Thankfully, a recent article has highlighted the lies and deception that the Bush administration has perpetrated not just on the American people but also on Congress with regards to this law. Their argument has always been we needed to strengthen FISA in order to fight Al Qaeda. It turns out that domestic spying started both for the attacks on 9/11. This has been part of the neocon agenda. Answer to no one. Do what you want.

Over the last two weeks we’ve learned that Verizon and several of the other telecom companies have handed over information without a warrant. They have been over backwards to give the Bush administration everything it wants and more. Now, the Bush administration would like to give Verizon, MCI, Qwest and AT&T immunity. At first glance, this is laughable. But Democrats have had a track record of complaining in front of the cameras while quietly capitulating on the floor of the Senate and the House. The Senate Intelligence Committee led by Jay Rockefeller (Democrat — West Virginia) voted to give the administration and the telecommunications companies their immunity. Why? What are we gotten in return? Late yesterday there appeared to be some deal. Deal? I think I’m going to vomit.
An unlikely hero has emerged during this debate — presidential candidate Senator Chris Dodd. He vowed to place a Hold on the legislation. It is a tradition of the Senate that any senator can place a Hold on any legislation. This is supposed to promote centrist bills. It has been reported that Senate majority leader Harry Reid may use some procedural maneuvers in order to bypass the Hold. Late last week, Senator Dodd upped the ante. He said that he would filibuster any bill that included immunity for the telecom companies. He was joined by Senator Joe Biden, also a presidential candidate, in this filibuster threat. Senator Obama has also pledge to join the filibuster.
My larger question is why would any Democrat support immunity for companies who, at least on the surface, seem to have broken the law. They seem to have blatantly broken the law.


CNN, July 26, 2007:

JOHN ROBERTS: Congressman Sensenbrenner, let me ask you first of all, what’s your reaction to this contempt citation?
REP. JAMES SENSENBRENNER: I think it’s an overreach. I don’t think Congress should make the move to throw the president’s chief of staff and former counsel in jail over a personnel matter. Everyone says the president has the absolute right to fire U.S. attorneys.

CNN, April 25, 2007:

LOU DOBBS: The White House today immediately striking back at Democrats. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino accused the Democrats of creating what she called grand conspiracy theories that have no basis in fact. Perino said Democrats are overreaching with their concept of congressional oversight.

ABC’s This Week, March 18, 2007:

SEN. JOHN CORNYN: George, you know, it’s amazing to me. This is what I’m talking about when I say a legitimate investigation can be overreached – can overreach and the idea – I mean Democrats think Karl Rove is lurking behind every bush in Washington.

After months of “overreaching,” Karl Rove and Alberto Gonzales — the key figures in the Prosecutor Purge scandal, and perhaps the two aides with the deepest loyalty to Dubya — have offered back-to-back resignations.
“Everyone says” firing prosecutors for political reasons is no big deal, and there was no evidence of wrongdoing.
Yet the growing mountain of evidence was a big enough deal to run these uber-hacks out of town.
Is this success? Are we done here? Hell no.
First and foremost, we still don’t know the full story how prosecutors were put on the purge list — to what extent were congresspeople and the president involved.
Dems are saying the investigations will continue. Good.
Beyond nailing all the individuals involved, there’s a larger story to tell.
That this is not merely about unethical individuals. This is about how conservatives govern.
By placing loyalty over expertise, by running “everything … by the political arm,” by empowering political hacks to run roughshod over career civil servants beholden to facts and the law.
No matter who replaces Gonzales, this bankrupt conservative philosophy of governing will remain so long as Dubya is in office.
Our job is to make clear what’s at stake, so the voters will know what visions of government they can to choose.
The conservative kind that has already run our government into the ground.
Or the liberal kind that directs our government to respond to the people’s will.

Chris Wallace Spins For White House

On Fox News Sunday, Chris Wallace gratuitously offered a falsehood to spin for White House, regarding its efforts to implement a “terrorist surveillance program” that the Justice Dept. said lacked any legal basis.
Sen. Chuck Schumer said on Fox, in regards to the attempt to get the bed-ridden incapacitated John Ashcroft to approve the program:

Gonzales did not do this on his own. The question is who ordered him to do it. The president was asked. He didn’t say yes or no.

I’m sending letters today to the president, to Vice President Cheney, to Mr. Addington, asking them if they sent Gonzales there or if they know who it is who did it, because the Justice Department’s own Office of Legal Counsel said that this program was being done illegally.

Wallace then added:

I should also point out that James Comey, under questioning from Senator Specter, said there was nothing illegal in what the White House did here.

But Comey did not say during his testimony “there was nothing illegal” done.
He said because he’s “not a presidential scholar,” he wasn’t going to say if it is legal or illegal for the president to ignore the Justice Department’s conclusions on the legality of the program.

Setting An Example

From CNN yesterday:

It’s called the Office of the Commander in Chief, set to be a shadowy entity created by Iraq’s prime minister.
Multiple U.S. military and intelligence sources say the office has the power to overrule other Iraqi government ministries … According to a U.S. intelligence source, the office is “… ensuring the emplacement of commanders it favors and can control.” Specifically, removing from command or detaining Iraqi police and army officers perceived as too aggressive in cracking down on Shia militias. Allegations the government vigorously denies.

Where did Maliki ever get the crazy idea of an executive branch office purging officials, empowering blind loyalists, and quietly imposing a political agenda on other government agencies?

Sunday Talkshow Breakdown

Some Republicans are pushing for Alberto Gonzales’ resignation, in hopes of ending media attention on the Prosecutor Purge scandal.
But on the Sunday shows, Democrats indicated that they would not consider a resignation a substitute for getting to the bottom of the Purge.
Sen. Patrick Leahy said on CBS’ Face The Nation:

…who would [Gonzales] be replaced with? If it’s going to be another person who is going to be really run by the White House, and if the White House is continued to be allowed to interfere with the criminal justice system throughout this country … then it does no good.

On CNN’s Late Edition, Sen. Ron Wyden subtly called out the GOP tactic:

I, for one, am concerned that some of the people who are saying he’s a dead man walking are essentially trying to have Mr. Gonzales walk the plank for the administration, when we still ought to be digging into exactly what the role of the White House was.

And Sen. Chuck Schumer, on Fox News Sunday, kept up the drumbeat for White House officials to testify

When Attorney General Gonzales says he doesn’t know what’s going on, and his chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, says he doesn’t know what’s going on, or at least he didn’t compile the list, the deputy attorney general the same, and so do all the lower-level people who we’ve interviewed in private, the arrow seems to point at the White House more and more.
Someone had to come up with this scheme. And getting Karl Rove, getting Harriet Miers and other White House officials to testify is really essential.

Dems are smartly looking beyond any potential resignation, and setting the bar where it belongs.
Not on scalps for scalps sake, but on diving the truth of what happens and restoring the credibility of our system of justice.

Recess Appointments

For listeners of the Rachel Maddow Show that heard me today, my post about Bush’s most recent recess appointments is actually over at Common Sense, where I blog on behalf of Campaign for America’s Future.

The Circus Never Came To Town

Remember last week?
Democrats were threatening to issue subpoenas of White House officials. But the White House had that killer response: Beware The Sinister Spectacle.
Press Secretary Tony Snow offered these variations on the talking point:

  • “Do you want to get at the truth, or do you want to create a political spectacle?”
  • “Is this pressure on transcripts and everything, is this really something where somebody thinks that there’s going to be a fact that they’re not going to receive? The answer is, no. The question is whether you are trying to create a political spectacle, rather than simply the basis of getting at the truth.”
  • “If they don’t accept [our]offer, it lifts the veil on some of the motivations, which means that people are less interested in the truth than creating a political spectacle.”
  • “I think you’ve always got a temptation [of] somebody sort of waving a piece of paper”

It wasn’t a terribly strong argument from the get-go.
But after yesterday’s testimony from Kyle Sampson, the White House line is even more ridiculous.
The hearing was not a spectacle, nor a theater or a circus.
It was a hearing. Senators asked questions. The witness testified. He was under oath.
We could watch. We learned some things. We have more questions. We’re a little closer to the truth.
Some call it democracy.
As it stands, the relevant House and Senate committees have authorized subpoenas of White House officials, but have not yet issued them.
Presumably, the authorization is intended as a bargaining chip to pressure the White House to agree to voluntary public testimony.
Now, coming off of a well-managed hearing, is the time to step up the pressure and force the issue.
And, to reiterate an earlier post, if that means going to court, so be it.

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