Wednesday, January 25, 2006

On an unchecked executive

Okay, so courtesy of Kevin Drum, the Washington Monthly's Political Animal, the Bush administration is declining to produce certain Hurricane-Katrina-related documents and/or officials for the Congressional committees investigating the clusterfuck. They cite "the confidentiality of executive branch communication" and argue that the "president's ability to get advice and have conversations with his top advisers that remain confidential."

The point that advisers who give bad advice to the president probably shouldn't be advising him was not addressed*. I'm going to leave it alone for now, too, because I have a slightly different question on my mind: When did the executive branch cease to be answerable to the American public? I realize that the best-known checks and balances are the ones established in the Constitution, where Congress checks the president and the president appoints the judges and the judges rule on the legislature's laws and the shin bone's connected to the knee bone, but isn't there inherent in all of that the fact that the president is a federal employee? We hired him (well, 51 percent of us did), our tax money is paying his salary, we're supposed to be able to trust that he's making good decisions, and every time he's called to justify one of them, he says, "Well, I can't tell you that, because it would aid the enemy."

I don't buy it. I recognize that we're in a Time Of War™, but there's only so far an executive can get with the "aiding the enemy" excuse. President Bush needs to recognize that what aids the enemy isn't the media publicizing his screwups; his screwups are aiding the enemy. And if some special government commission needs to be established for the Confidential Investigation of Executive Screwups, I'm all for it, but somebody outside of the president's office needs to have access to all of the facts. All of the facts.

Update: Matt Lavine at Basket Full of Puppies addresses it.

Another update: Hat tip to Gavin at Sadly, No! for pointing us at this post at Unclaimed Territory. Glenn shows us how in June of 2002, legislation was proposed to lower the evidentiary standard for a FISA warrant from "probable cause" to "reasonable suspicion" - but the administration wouldn't support it. The DoJ's James Baker said that "[the 72-hour window] has allowed us to make full and effective use of FISA's pre-existing emergency provisions to ensure that the government acts swiftly to respond to terrorist threats" and that the constitutionality of the change in evidentiary standard was questionable. Read the entire thing; it's illuminating.

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