Are the Chickens coming home to roost for these two cocks?

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by D_N Flay Table, Jun 28, 2007.

  1. D_N Flay Table

    D_N Flay Table New Member

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  2. nakedwally

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  3. DC_DEEP

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    You aren't surprised, are you? When the idea of white house subpoenas was first introduced, the white house said it would not honor them.

    I wonder if that sets precedent, and allows me to reject a subpoena....?
     
  4. B_big dirigible

    B_big dirigible New Member

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    Don't hold your breath. "Executive privilege" is very real, is a vital feature of the US government, and has a long history; and from what I happen to know of that history, Congress doesn't have a ghost of a chance here. It's just a harrassment tactic against the White House. It will only make Congress look vindictive and feeble, as usual. The only useful function will be to give senators, particularly, more chances to bloviate in the press. (If that's actually useful.)
     
  5. burns1de

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    So the White House is ignoring a direct order to appear in court put forth by the elected representatives of the people in Congress? I'm no expert in American politics, but this sounds like a whole bunch of crap to me.
     
  6. Ethyl

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    Surely you don't think the Oval Office is subject to the same laws as us lowly peons?
     
  7. B_big dirigible

    B_big dirigible New Member

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    It's certainly not subject to the beck and call of Congress.
     
  8. B_big dirigible

    B_big dirigible New Member

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    Congress is not part of the Judiciary, and cannot issue orders for anyone to appear in court. It can attempt to issue orders for appearances before Congress itself - not at all the same thing.

    Congress's control of the Executive and Judiciary is strictly limited, vexatious though members of Congress may find that. Tough shit; the separation of powers is far more important than the Congressional tantrum du jour.
     
  9. burns1de

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    Ah yes, you're right, my mistake.

    So you would consider this a temper tantrum by Congress? Isn't the whole story behind the firing of the Justices a good reason to issue a subpoena to the Executive branch in this case? I agree with the separation of powers to be essential to a democracy, but don't you agree that the White House should be held accountable for their actions? If Congress has no power to force them to appear before a committee, then who has?
     
  10. DC_DEEP

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    I'm guessing Bill Clinton wondered the same thing.

    Executive privilege is indeed a necessary thing - unless it is abused to cover up other abuses. The current administration in general, and the vice president in particular, have not been nearly open and honest enough.
     
  11. avg_joe

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    what's gonna happen next? Congress Vs. White House? Constitutional crisis?
     
  12. burns1de

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    ...inside a steel cage for the World Heavyweight Title!

    Hopefully.
     
  13. B_big dirigible

    B_big dirigible New Member

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    Justices? You mean 8 of the 93 US Attorneys?
     
  14. burns1de

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    Those federal prosecutors... whatever you call them... you know what I mean.
     
  15. DC_DEEP

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    What the hell is that supposed to mean? Or are you just being a troll?
     
  16. B_big dirigible

    B_big dirigible New Member

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    Before I go into a major-league song and dance I wanted to be sure we were talking about the same thing.
    The only laws I've seen relevant to the matter - and I recall posting links to the statutes here the last time this came up - seem to be pretty clear. The Attorneys serve at, basically, the whim of the White House, and can be replaced at any time for any reason. (There are some procedural complications involved in choosing their replacements.) This is hardly bizarre, as the Justice department is part of the Executive, so ultimately they work for the President in any case. Bush did not replace the Clinton-era attorneys immediately, even though that's not an unusual act for in incoming president. He replaced a few of them - less than 10% - a few years later. So in short, I'm not aware of any genuine legal problem there at all. Congress may try to make it look like there is, but without a pretty solid argument - one which has been notably lacking from Congress so far - I'll have to figure it's just harassment.
    The White House should be held accountable for its actions, but not necessarily accountable to Congress. The traditional reckoning of accountability is during subsequent elections. The voters can then "turn the bums out", as the common phrase has it. If the actions include something criminal - and it takes far more than the braying of some noisebot in Congress to establish that - then well-established legal procedures are appropriate. If the suspected criminal acts are by a few particular persons, such as the President himself, there are very few things Congress (or, for that matter, the Justice department) has the legal power to do. Remember the Dem attempt to "censure" then-President Clinton? Congress has no power to do that; so it was an attempt at an extra-Constitutional power grab. (It failed, of course.) All that Congress can do is impeach the President, and of course no Presidential impeachment has so far succeeded. If an impeachment should succeed, then the person removed from office would be ground through the legal system much the same as anybody else; an impeached President would not have any special immunities once removed from the Presidential office. (While he's President, he does have a few such immunities, specifically provided by the Constitution so that Congress can't do what it's trying to do now.)

    Precedent has established that an attempt to remove an officeholder for purely political ends is not a legitimate use of impeachment - see the Democratic-Republican attempt to remove Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase in 1804. The goal was to clean out the Federalist officeholders appointed by John Adams on his last day in office. The Democratic-Republicans really wanted to get the Chief Justice, John Marshall, but believed that he was far too strong for them. There were no genuine criminal charges against Chase; they mainly wanted to weaken Marshall by removing one of his allies, and wanted a vacancy so they could appoint a good Democratic-Republican instead. That impeachment failed catastrophically. In other words, the long-standing precedent is that you can't remove a man from office simply because you want the office for someone else, or for anything else short of actual crimes. And hating him does not by itself make him a criminal. The electorate can remove him for any reason, no matter how frivolous, but Congress can't.

    Right now, the Scooter Libby show-trial has come back to bite Congress in the ass. Congress seems to be trying to pull the same trick - they have no evidence of anything criminal (note that I did not say that they have no evidence of anything they don't like; but keeping Congress happy is not one of the President's Constitutional duties), but by expending enough legal manpower, they may be able to generate something during an investigation. It seems that dumb old Bush isn't dumb enough to fall for that one a second time.

    Now if there is some actual evidence of illegal activity, or genuine reason to believe that such has occurred, then the office of the Special Prosecutor may get into the act. Parallel investigations by Congress tend to screw things up in that case, particularly when it comes to granting immunities to encourage testimony. Immunities granted by Congress are not immunities from the Special Prosecutor, again because Congress is not part of the American law-enforcement apparatus, and it's a violation of the principle of separation of powers for it to try to act as a police agency as well as a legislative body. That is, the non-legislative acts of Congress are not binding on the Justice Department, including the Special Prosecutor.

    Unfortunately after the antics of the last few Special Prosecutors, the Special Prosecutor function is hard to take seriously right about now. (I'm thinking of Ken Starr and Pat Fitzgerald, both apparently considered in Washington to be outstandingly upright citizens, but rather silly Special Prosecutors).

    Congressional investigations are appropriate in many instances. Unsanitary conditions in meat-packing plants, say, or apportionment of radio frequency bands, are appropriate subjects for investigation. If Congress is to legislate meaningfully in such areas, if must investigate first. And sometimes Congress must be able to compel testimony. However, we can't then conclude that Congressional investigations are a good tool for investigating the Executive department. We don't want an Executive subordinate to Congress. When the Constitution was drafted, it was already apparent just how poor Congress was at the Executive function, so the Executive was made entirely distinct from Congress, and independent in nearly all respects. Congress was deliberately denied the powers which would enable it to dominate the Presidency (or the Judiciary). And, I think, properly so.

    So I believe that Congressional investigations of other departments of government are themselves indications that there are no real criminal charges pending, or even considered likely. Such investigations are for political show and little more.
     
  17. burns1de

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    Very interesting post, BD. It definitely sheds a lot of light on the relationships between the different branches of the American government, especially for a dirty foreigner like me. This is VERY different from what I'm accustomed to hear from the blame-Bush-at-any-cost crowd, and it's pretty refreshing. However, I'd still like to hear a rebuttal to this from someone as equally knowledgeable as you.
     
  18. B_big dirigible

    B_big dirigible New Member

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    It's certainly true that the Administration gets failing marks in communications skills. Not that it would much good if they talked more, as it would be dismissed as propaganda - the BUSH=HITLER signs would be replaced by BUSH=GOEBBELS. Not much of an improvement.

    However the automatic assertion that chronic uncommunicativness equates to a coverup of some abuse is unwarranted.

    The electorate - and, for that matter, the media and political types as well - are always unprepared to deal with the world as it is at any particular time. When they first start to become aware of the outside world, in late childhood and early adulthood, people spontaneously form a conceptual matrix into which all subsequent knowledge and experience is wedged, no matter how poorly it may fit. Thus the younger portions of the WW2 generation, forming their conceptual matrices during the prewar FDR days and the war itself, were unable to see the Vietnam War and the Nixon presidency in any way except as shadows of FDR and WW2. And so of course they could really understand neither. For those forming their conceptual matrices around, say, 1972, Iraq and Bush are shadows of Vietnam and Nixon. And once again, they can't possibly understand the modern world if they think it's some sort of recapitulation of the dead past. Unfortunately those people are now running TV stations, newspapers, universities, manufacturing companies, and Congress.

    Bush and Cheney are not reincarnations of Nixon and Agnew. The Watergate experience is not relevant preparation for the current political imbroglio. A special prosecutor was appropriate in the Nixon case once it became pretty clear that Nixon was tied up in an actual breaking & entering at the Democratic headquarters, and that the President and the Attorney General were both central figures in the subsequent attempt at a coverup. B&E and a subsequent coverup were unquestionably crimes, not mere differences of political opinion or minor infractions of genuinely obscure laws, so the involvement of the Justice department was then appropriate. A complication was that Justice is part of the Executive, and Nixon tried to fire the Special Prosecutor (Archie Cox). Although he eventually succeeded in firing Cox (the AG, Elliott Richardson, wouldn't do it), it didn't save him.

    But we can't fairly conclude from all that that Presidents (or Vice Presidents) are criminals who just haven't been caught yet, any more than we can assume that Iraq is an updated Vietnam.
     
  19. DC_DEEP

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    I would agree, somewhat. However, I'm not so sure that if those "any-reason" arguments included obstruction of justice or evidence tampering, that it would still be immune from scrutiny.

    There are some indications (but without those subpoenaed documents, of course, no proof) that a number of those federal prosecutors were dismissed and replaced because they were likely to rule, in the views of Gonzales, in an "unfavorable" direction. To me, that pretty much sounds like obstruction of justice, not political games.

    Yes, they serve "at the discretion of the president," but within limited scope. If Gonzales/Bush decide to replace one because he wears a bowtie or because one of his eyes is squinty, that's silly, but I guess it would fit in with the "at the discretion" concept. If Gonzales/Bush decides to replace one because he's about to rule against a major GOP contributor, that's entirely different.
     
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