Thursday, January 18, 2007

Does a leopard change his spots?

A little more than a year ago, it was discovered that the Bush administration was wiretapping Americans in a clear-cut, no-doubt-about-it violation of the Constitution and statutory law. The only court to rule on the matter agreed with this judgment. King George the Incompetent, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced that they would keep on doing it and Congress, controlled by Republicans, responded by saying, “Yes, Your Highness: Your wish is our command.”

There is a new Congress in town, and it has no intention of giving King George a free pass. The administration responded by saying, in essence, “Okay, we’ll stop breaking the law.” This is confusing to many because obeying the law is so out of character for this crop of crooks.

My experience tells me that people who have been rewarded all their lives for living a certain way do not change after age 50. Dumb Dubya has believed since he was a child that the rules do not apply to him. He has surrounded himself with enablers and Alberto Gonzalez is the prime example.

Of course, people will change their conduct if the fear of getting caught or punished arises, and it is an obvious conclusion that this is what happened in this instance. Senator Arlen Spector was among the many who suggested as much when Generalissimo Gonzalez testified yesterday in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Big Mitch arrives at a different conclusion. I think that the Party of Bush administration has no intention of obeying the law and that the announcement of Generalissimo Gonzalez is no more than throwing sand in our eyes.

Let’s take a clearer look. El Generalissimo says that the administration has worked out an agreement, which took the form of an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, according to which it would over-see the domestic spying program.

The presiding judge of the FISA court said she had no objection to disclosing legal orders and opinions about the program that targets people linked to al-Qaida, but the Bush administration would have to approve release of the information.

El Generalissimo is not giving his approval, he told incredulous Senators.

“Are you saying that you might object to the court giving us a decision that you publicly announced?” asked committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. “Are we Alice in Wonderland here?”

Responding, Gonzales said “there is going to be information about operational details about how we’re doing this that we want to keep confidential,” as if letting the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee know how the program worked were the same thing as putting the court’s agreement in sky-writing over Islamabad.

Meanwhile, over in the House Intelligence Committee, members were being treated to testimony from John Negroponte, the National Intelligence Director. If you can’t trust him, whom can you trust? Think back to the heady days of Iran-Contra, when he was the ambassador to Honduras, during which time military aid to Honduras rose from $4 million to 77.4 million a year, presumably to the benefit of the Contras. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the Honduran military chief who was blamed for having death squads with which he dealt with political opponents, a fact which Senator Dodd accused Negroponte of disingenuously withholding from Congress.

But what has Negroponte done for us lately? Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee yesterday, he said there may be separation of powers issues involved in turning over information to Congress about the program.

Did you catch that? It’s not being withheld on the basis of operational security. There’s a principle involved, and that principle is that the present administration is simply not going to admit that Congress has a role to play in running the country.

Maybe they ought to re-read the Constitution. I especially invite their attention to Article II, Section 4:
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
“… and tell ’em Big Mitch sent ya!”

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