Thursday, January 05, 2006

the contemptuous white house

So the de facto Administration reserves the right to ignore the recently-passed anti-torture law at its own convenience. As Elisa Massimino, Washington director for Human Rights Watch, said, "Congress is trying to flex its muscle to provide those checks [on detainee abuse], and it's being told through the signing statement that it's impotent. It's quite a radical view." It's John Yoo's view, Samuel Alito's view, the view of ideologues who want statements giving the President's interpretation of laws equal weight with Congressional intent and even the letter of said laws.

Folks, our Constitution is quite clear. Congress passes laws, the Executive enforces them. And the judiciary interprets them -- not the White House or the Justice Department.

So, we have a clear statement of intent to ignore the anti-torture law when convenient. They're already ignoring the law on domestic surveillance, based on some crackpot theory that grotesquely overstretches the "commander in chief" powers and based on an ambitious reading of the powers Congress delegated in authorizing our war in Afghanistan. What other laws and constitutional provisions can we expect these guys to ignore?

One thing they continue to flout is Congressional power of advise and consent for appointees -- Bush made a slew of recess appointments yesterday. Let's look at some of them, shall we? Julie Myers is tapped to head up Immigration and Customs Enforcement at the Department of Homeland Security. Her main qualification? Her uncle is Air Force General and former Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Dick Myers -- AND her husband is DHS Secretary Chertoff's chief of staff. She has NO immigration enforcement experience, nor experience managing a large organization. So the only way to explain her selection is one word: Cronyism.

Ellen Sauerbrey is now the assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration. Sauerbrey is an opponent of abortion rights. Unlike previous people appointed to this job (by Democrats and Republicans), Sauerbrey, a political hack from Maryland who several times failed to win Maryland's governorship or a Senate seat, has absolutely no experience with refugee issues. She is simply unqualified, and her anti-abortion extremism will further undermine global efforts on population issues by inserting that domestic US controversy into the international arena.

From the Post: "For the Federal Election Commission, Bush picked Justice Department employee and former Fulton County, Ga., Republican chairman Hans von Spakovsky for one of three openings. Von Spakovsky is widely viewed as a key player in two disputed Justice Department decisions to overrule career staff in voting rights cases." So a guy who plays a leading role in ignoring expert opinions (like this one) that run counter to the White House's partisan wishes gets a job on the FEC. I'm so glad to see elections will continue to be administered fairly.

Recess appointments are a power that is grossly outdated, granted in an era when Congress was in recess for several months at a time. To use this power just a few days before Congress returns from recess abuses the intent and shows the contempt this WH holds for other branches of the government. The Bolton recess appointment as UN ambassador is a piece of the pattern. White House to Congress -- screw you very much, we'll do what we want. AND it was done after the Congress had a pro forma opening for the 2006 session, so now the WH claims these appointments are valid till the end of 2007!

Can anybody imagine the reaction of the Republican Congress if Clinton had so consistently resorted to recess appointments for controversial and unqualified nominees? Why, I bet they'd have impeached him.

This White House has nothing but contempt, for Congress, for anybody who disagrees with it, who asks questions of it, who dares think that people outside of the Office of the Vice President (oh yeah, and the Oval Office) enjoy any power at all.

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