Friday, February 10, 2006

The Nixon-Bush Doctrine

Long time political correspondent Bruce Morton (now with CNN) warns that the all-powerful imperial presidency is here to stay unless Congress asserts itself and defends its proper role within the schema of our democratic republic. Otherwise, the executive will continue to be emboldened and continue to use powers not enumerated in the constitution and act in ways contrary to law.

Morton calls this executive usurpation of power the "Nixon-Bush" doctrine and recalls an interview Richard Nixon gave British journalist David Frost:

Frost: "So ... what ... you're saying is that there are certain situations ... where the president can decide that it's in the best interests of the nation or something, and do something illegal."

Nixon: "Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal."

Frost: " By definition."

Nixon: "Exactly, exactly. If the president, for example, approves something because of the national security ... then the president's decision in that instance is one that enables those who carry it out to carry it out without violating a law."

Of course the national security card can be used at will much like a wild card in poker, except, according to Nixon and Bush, it seems the president always has the wild card; a very scary concept. Because Nixon's view eschews the notion of checks and balance, he is talking more like a tyrant and not a leader of a democratic constitutional republic who swore an oath to uphold our Constitution.

The notion also becomes more daunting because Morton correctly notes that terrorism is not a philosophy per se but a tactic used by opponents who do not have the wherewithal to fight conventional type conflicts. So the "War Against Terror" becomes an eternal battle. If Congress does not assert itself, then the imperial presidency, dare I say the "unitary" executive, is here to stay.

No wonder Republicans who are serious about their oath to defend the Constitution (Sen. Arlen Specter and Sen. Lindsay Graham) were vocal in their objections to the "Nixon-Bush" doctrine as articulated by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales earlier in the week. But because they are Republicans and realize their Republican teammates are heading into a very tough election year, their objections were rather mild.

What puzzles me is how many conservatives are defending Bush and his actions. It's ironic because anyone who even thinks about regulating the spread of guns in American society is hit, and hit hard, by the Second Amendment argument. Gun-loving conservatives seem enamored with "the right of the people to keep and bear arms." It's a shame conservative folk do not respect the Fourth Amendment as much as they do the Second Amendment.

For additional information read CNN reporter Bruce Morton.


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