Thursday, September 14, 2006

Nixonland 1973 | Bu$hCountry 2006 

4 Oct. 20, 1973:
"With every day that goes by, Richard Nixon manages to look more as though he was born to the presidency rather than elected to it. He has repeatedly defied the courts, ignored the prerogatives of Congress and refused to acknowledge any limits on the power of the presidency." ~ William Lawton.
See: The Imperial Presidency, Round Two

4 The demise of the "unitary executive" - 1973:
"What we had come back to was a democratic republic - not an elected monarchy - a government under law, with Congress, the courts, and the press functioning to curtail executive abuses, as our Constitution envisioned. Moreover, for the first time in this or any country the legislature was casting its whole vote against an ongoing presidential war." ~ Daniel Ellsberg, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers

4 Resurrection and resurgence - 2006:
Bob Egelko has an interesting article in The San Francisco Chronicle today examining how U.S. law has changed over the last five years as a result of the 9/11 attack. He includes this truly revealing quote from John Yoo:

UC Berkeley law Professor John Yoo, who as a Justice Department lawyer was one of the Bush administration's chief legal theorists, summarized its view in his forthcoming book, "War by Other Means":

"We are used to a peacetime system in which Congress enacts the laws, the president enforces them, and the courts interpret them. In wartime, the gravity shifts to the executive branch.''

Actually, I'm pretty sure that it's always the case in America (or at least it used to be) that "Congress enacts the laws, the president enforces them, and the courts interpret them." That's pretty fundamental to how our country works. In fact, the whole structure of the Constitution is based on that system -- not just the "Peacetime Constitution" we have, but the actual Constitution itself.

The Constitution is actually pretty clear on that score. Article I says "All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States" -- Article II says the President "shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed" -- Article III says "the judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in . . . inferior Courts." That arrangement isn't really a side detail or something that shifts based on circumstance. It's pretty fundamental to the whole system. In fact, if you change that formula, it isn't really the American system of government anymore. ~ Glenn Greenwald


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