Even Safire is getting sick of Bush
January 3, 2002 5:24 AM   Subscribe

Even Safire is getting sick of Bush in today's NY Times op-ed piece writing about the bogus executive privilege order he signed re: FBI missteps in Boston: "Why is Bush, so early in his term and with little to hide, going down this road to upset our system of checks and balances?...It's another mistake that will come home to haunt the Bush presidency." (nytimes.com Member ID: metafi, password: metafi) And with Lieberman and Levin opening up the Enron investigation ("Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., the full committee's chairman, promised Wednesday `a search for the truth, not a witch hunt.' But he did not rule out an examination of Enron's relationships with the Bush administration.") does anyone not think the Dems are getting fired up for the fall elections, war or no war?
posted by willrich (26 comments total)
 
"The other reason, spoken sotto voce, is that some of the documents Chairman Dan Burton's committee is requesting deal with other cases — such as Janet Reno's decision to abort investigations into Bill Clinton's overseas fund-raising over the protest of special counsel. Burton, some of these Bush G.O.P. appointees say, is just an old Republican Clinton-hater out to beat a dead horse. "

Bush and the rest of the republicans would be crucified as Clinton-bashers by the press if they let Burton get his hands on this stuff. It's sad to say it but congress has so over-sensationalized everything for so long that oversight cannot really happen anymore. Everything (on both sides) has more to do with politics and spin than actual results.
posted by revbrian at 6:12 AM on January 3, 2002


It's sad to say it but congress has so over-sensationalized everything for so long that oversight cannot really happen anymore.

Congressional oversight isn't something that can be taken away if Congress doesn't do it right -- it's a fundamental check on the executive branch.

I don't understand why the Bush administration is spending political capital to hide corruption in government that took place as much as 30 years ago. What's the upside?

One of the lines in Safire's column is interesting in light of present circumstances: "At the time J. Edgar Hoover belatedly began his war on the Mafia, civil liberty was set aside to meet the perceived emergency — abuses that lasted through three decades."
posted by rcade at 6:24 AM on January 3, 2002


[Congressional oversight isn't something that can be taken away if Congress doesn't do it right -- it's a fundamental check on the executive branch.]

I'm not saying it was (or should be) taken away. I'm just saying that a few tv-hogs and grandstanders (on both sides of the aisle) ruin genuine oversight and reduce it to it's lowest common (mudslinging) denominator.

< i>The Senate Governmental Affairs Committee is among a half dozen committees and subcommittees expected to hold hearings in both the House and Senate in the coming months on Enron's collapse, one of the largest ever. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Labor Department also have investigations under way. "

I hope that seven different investigations give us clearer results than the re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-counts did. It would seem someone at Enron deserves to be looking at grey masonry walls for a couple years at least.
posted by revbrian at 6:31 AM on January 3, 2002


I don't understand why the Bush administration is spending political capital to hide corruption in government that took place as much as 30 years ago. What's the upside?

Where there's this much smoke, there's usually quite a fire.
posted by rushmc at 7:03 AM on January 3, 2002


rcade: It would be enough to say Bush is spending political capital on this simply because he can. Riding high up in the 90% range gives you orders of magnitude more political capital than an approval of, say, 80%. At 90%, people who have genuine concerns about the moral implications or even the basic legality of your actions tend to either shut up, for fear of being labeled "Un-American", or get drowned out by the (usually well-intentioned, yet often misled) vox populi. So you get to do things, effectively for free as far as political capital is concerned, that might be risky when you have a more mortal administration with only a 50% or so approval rating.

It's consistent with an earlier executive order denying (through postponement) public access to George H.W. Bush's papers, presumably to protect the mass of his own administation that also worked for Daddy and Uncle Ronnie. There may be some value in setting precedent here - cover up the FBI in the 1970s, so you can cover up your own abuses of civil liberty and military power for at least the span of Republican continuity in the big chair.
posted by Vetinari at 7:14 AM on January 3, 2002


About a decade ago, Bush Sr. had an approval rating over 90%, reflecting public backing of Operation Desert Storm. In the next election, he got creamed by an admitted adulterer with connections to some shady business dealings. And the country prospered.
Not to give a history lecture--I just enjoy remembering that. Dubya can expect more and more criticism; it goes with the territory, and I don't think his Teflon coating will hold up all that long.
posted by StOne at 7:51 AM on January 3, 2002


Lying troll alert:

I hope that seven different investigations give us clearer results than the re-re-re-re-re-re-re-re-counts did. Shame on revbrian for repeating the James Baker III Republican tallking points when everyone knows what a lying troll the comment about recounts is.
posted by nofundy at 8:03 AM on January 3, 2002


About a decade ago, Bush Sr. had an approval rating over 90%

Yep, and then he totally blew it and lost to Bill Clinton, at the time a relatively unknown from a relatively unimportant state. George W. Bush has learned from his father's mistakes, but I would not be surprised if we see another Clinton try to supplant him in 2004. If the economy tanks or does not fully recover come November 2004, GWB will be another one-term Bush.
posted by insomnyuk at 8:24 AM on January 3, 2002


Hey nofundy! Get bent.
posted by revbrian at 9:05 AM on January 3, 2002


After eight years of organized crime with a flag on the wall, Democrats are getting wound up about Bush kicking a little dirt over the Clinton legacy to keep down the stench. I wonder if they even realize how hilarious their position is.
posted by Real9 at 9:40 AM on January 3, 2002


Hey nofundy! Get bent.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has been fully swayed by revbrian's well-reasoned and articulate argument.
posted by Dirjy at 10:05 AM on January 3, 2002


Hey nofundy! Get bent.

Shades of the Algonquin roundtable.

See, this is advantage of technology. In the old days, we'd have to turn to Usenet for such incisive commentary.
posted by pmurray63 at 10:25 AM on January 3, 2002


[...such incisive commentary

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has been fully swayed by revbrian's well-reasoned and articulate argument.]

Right, the Lying troll alert was really helpful wasn't it! No one bothered to counter my thoughts at the top so we'll have to assume you agree with me!

My point is that the multiple recounts swayed no-one and offered only more confusion. It's my hope that seven different committee reports don't have the same result as the recounts. Whether James Baker said something before me doesn't necessarily negate it's truthfulness does it?
posted by revbrian at 10:32 AM on January 3, 2002


The problem with Congressional oversight has to do with people who live in glass houses.
posted by Mack Twain at 10:34 AM on January 3, 2002


OK...OK...OK. Both revbrian and nofundy...chill! Please. This is what I hate about discussing politics or religion, it degenerates into name calling and many, many logical fallacies make debate impossible. The fallacy of Appeal to Authority and Appeal to Anonymous Authority is balanced by Transferance. Please, if you have rebuttals, please don't resort to spin, Logical Fallacies or name calling. And if you see a duck, and want to call out that duck, please do it with more eloquence than what was shown.

OK, so I'm done.
posted by plemeljr at 10:52 AM on January 3, 2002


The basic truth of the matter is that congressional oversight is the only thing that protects us from the power of the exective branch. The constitution was set up with these sorts of checks and balances as a direct result of the framers' experiences in England. If congress is unable or unwilling to discharge their duties for ANY reason, then we're in a pretty tight spot. The current administration has shown precious little inclination to tread lightly on the rights of the populace.
My advice is to write your representatives and outline your opinion. One person's voice will no doubt be lost in the din, but if we ALL write, and encourage others to do the same, then our representatives may feel more comfortable about voicing their concerns despite the polls (which can be generated to show whatever the person commissioning the poll would like to show).
posted by jack-o at 10:54 AM on January 3, 2002


The basic truth of the matter is that congressional oversight is the only thing that protects us from the power of the exective branch. The constitution was set up with these sorts of checks and balances as a direct result of the framers' experiences in England. If congress is unable or unwilling to discharge their duties for ANY reason, then we're in a pretty tight spot. The current administration has shown precious little inclination to tread lightly on the rights of the populace.
My advice is to write your representatives and outline your opinion. One person's voice will no doubt be lost in the din, but if we ALL write, and encourage others to do the same, then our representatives may feel more comfortable about voicing their concerns despite the polls (which can be generated to show whatever the person commissioning the poll would like to show).
posted by jack-o at 10:54 AM on January 3, 2002


----"It's sad to say it but congress has so over-sensationalized everything for so long that oversight cannot really happen anymore."

Not really. Congress still legally has the power of oversight, but the Bush Administration, armed with 90% approval and a press that can't seem to suck his ass hard enough, doesn't seem all that concerned with the law (take Cheney's fully illegal refusal to turn over the names of the participants of his energy policy auction), and as yet they have not been made to pay any price. When Bush's numbers start going down, I expect the investigations will ramp up.

The power of Congress vs. the prez tends to rise and fall according to public support, which is all about perception. It's messy.
posted by Ty Webb at 10:55 AM on January 3, 2002


[Congress still legally has the power of oversight]

Has ANYONE here claimed to the contrary!? What I'm arguing is that there have been so many special prosecutors, congressional witch-hunts, and attack dog advisors over the past years that the vast majority of americans tend to ignore the whole lot.

This is NOT a good thing. It's a very bad thing. The press never covers reasonable oversight by reasonable people, perhaps because it's boring. I would love for congress to 'get to the bottom of' a whole host of things but I doubt that the american people have the stomach for it as they (the aforementioned congress) all seem a bunch of self promoting quacks regardless of whether they call themselves republicans or democrats.
posted by revbrian at 11:10 AM on January 3, 2002


Revbrian,
Interesting how you grabbed a snippet of larger sentence to stand upon. Poor.

Again, my point is that congressional oversight is not a thing of the past, as you seem to fear, but that the balance of power between congress and da Prez ebbs and flows with the fickle perceptions of the voters. Reagan was one of the more imperial presidents in this country, but after Iran-Contra revealed the extent of his administration's corruption, voters were willing to support investigations into the matter, something the polls and the circumstances could not have predicted a few moths before.

And calling politicians "a bunch of self promoting quacks" is like calling icebergs "very, very cold."
posted by Ty Webb at 11:25 AM on January 3, 2002


Yah know, I thought Clinton (aka executive branch, though of course Congress should get its due) was toxic to the Constitution but this administration is effortlessly surpassing his record. It's like the last three presidents in one! Whatta bargain.
posted by retrofut at 11:39 AM on January 3, 2002


Well, last year, President Bush signed 51 executive orders.

Some of them were far more reaching than the one Mr. Will mentions.

President Clinton had a whopping 364 EO's, some of which radically changed the direction of American world relations, internal policies and justice.

Although, by far, the most prolific modern user of EO's was F.D.R who racked up a stunning count of 3728. Of course, FDR was the president for a very long time. :)

My opinion is that EO's have been incredibly abused through the entire history of our country by the executive branch, by circumventing the legislative branch and the judicial branch, whose job it is to create and rule on laws respectively.

During President Clinton's term, Paul Begala, former aide to President Clinton was quoted in the NY TImes saying:
“Stroke of the pen. Law of the land. Kind of cool.”

I put it to you that it is not "kind of cool", it is indeed a method by which the presidency can be used as a dictator's chair. This, I believe, was never the intent of Article II of the US Constitution. (The statute by which the "implied powers" of Executive Orders arise.)

But, what do I know, I'm just a voter. :)
posted by dejah420 at 11:50 AM on January 3, 2002


dejah420, it would have been nice to see some mention in your post of the amount of time over which these executive orders were amassed. for example, bill clinton was president for eight years and accumulated 364 EOs, as you say. bush, as president for one year, got 51. at that rate, over eight years, he'd have 408, more than clinton.

if i'm overinterpreting your comparison here, i apologize.
posted by pikachulolita at 2:14 PM on January 3, 2002


pikachulolita: so what? 364, 408 what's the difference? It's like saying you had 100 moving violations and I had 89 so I'm a much better driver than you are. It's an 11% difference.
posted by billman at 7:31 PM on January 3, 2002


He was taking umbrage at your usage of the word "whopping," I believe, which might make the English majors in the crowd (you know who you are) misinterperet the apparent equality of the facts. His point was that so far, Clinton and Bush are about equal, and Bush may even be in the lead.

FDR, on the other hand, has 80 years worth of EOs :)
posted by Ptrin at 10:06 PM on January 3, 2002


George W. Bush has learned from his father's mistakes

He has? Sounds like a big assumption to me. To borrow a term, once that teflon coating wears off all the "I'm not like my dad, honest" pleas aren't going to make a difference if voters are getting sick of his post-war actions.
posted by skallas at 1:00 AM on January 4, 2002


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